5 Do’s and Don’ts for Parents of Addicted Adults

Dealing with addiction is never an easy task. It can lead to health problems, poverty, legal trouble, and more. It is especially hard to cope with when it is your own child who is struggling. It’s easy to let confusion, anger, or blame take over. It is also easy for parents of addicted adults to feed into the behavior without realizing. 

When your child is an adult, finding the balance between discipline and freedom is tricky. Just as there is no cure for addiction, there is no set rule book for parents of addicted adults. But there are some do’s and don’ts that are helpful to remember when dealing with addiction. Below are some helpful tips from WeedenLaw for parents of addicted adults.


1. Don’t scold them for their behavior

The natural response for wanting to change your child’s behavior is to punish them for it. This is not something that proves beneficial for addicts, especially adults. Scolding could worsen the problem and make your child more prone to isolation. This is the last thing a person with addiction needs. The longer they are alone, the more inclined they may be to fill the emptiness they feel with drugs or alcohol

While they may have made the initial choice to use drugs or alcohol, they did not choose to become addicted. It is important to remember this. They are likely already feeling guilt or shame from their actions. They don’t need you to remind them how disappointed you are of them. 

Address the problem, but don’t point the finger while doing so. 

2. Don’t try to overcompensate for their behavior

Another natural response for parents of addicted adults is to overcompensate for their child’s behavior. This might look like trying to make up for their bad actions by completing better ones for them. You might think that taking over basic tasks for your child will make their life easier. In reality, you are slowing down their recovery. Smothering your child can make them feel dependent on you. Adults, addicted or not, need responsibility.

It is important to encourage autonomy in your adult child. This can help them feel more purposeful. When there is nothing for them to complete or do for themselves, they may feel they have no purpose. Helping out every now and again is okay, but don’t try to control their life for them. It is hard to see them struggle with everyday tasks, but they need that order. 

3. Don’t think that ignoring the problem will make it go away

As much as you want to shut your eyes and make the addiction go away, you can’t. The problem is still there whether you choose to recognize it or not. 

Addiction is messy. It may be uncomfortable to address, but it is necessary to see it for what it is. Pretending that it is just a “phase” that will work itself out is toxic for both you and your child.

The more excuses you make for your child, the more inclined they will be to make their own. If you don’t treat the problem as serious, they won’t either. All you are doing by ignoring it is telling them that their behavior is not a problem. This may lead to them delaying recovery and diving deeper into their addiction. 

Don’t let the problem go unnoticed or unaddressed. Make sure your child knows that it is a problem and they need to make a change. Before you know it, your child may be fighting felony drug charges. Stay aware of the consequences of their behavior and make sure they do, too.

4. Don’t enable them

Enabling your child can look like a lot of things. One of the most common forms of enabling is lending them money. If your child has addiction, he or she might have a hard time keeping a job. Without a steady source of income, you may think it is your responsibility to support them. But what you might actually be doing is giving them the means to access more drugs or alcohol.

If you fear that your child may not have enough money to eat, there are ways around it. Instead of giving them money, buy them some groceries. This way, you are able to make sure the money isn’t enabling their addiction. You can also sleep at night knowing they aren’t going hungry.

5. Don’t blame yourself for their behavior

Just as you don’t want to blame your child for their addiction, you cannot blame yourself either. It is easy for parents of addicted adults to assume it is their own parenting that led them here. Remember that your child is, in fact, an adult. They are old enough to make their own decisions. 

Nobody is perfect. Your child isn’t and you aren’t either. But there is nothing that you did or didn’t do that caused their addiction. Rather, it is a result of their bad choices that got them to this point. 

That doesn’t make your child a bad person. A few bad choices can lead to getting swept away by addiction. Before they even know the harm they are causing, they can get caught in its grip. Blame has no place in recovery.


1. Do offer help, love, and support

It is important to let your child know that you are always there for them. Showing them that you love them is not equal to enabling them.

Offer your support, but don’t stop there. Help them seek professional support services. If they refuse, do not force it onto them. You can offer your help but if they don’t want to help themselves, they won’t. 

2. Do set open communication

More than anything, you want your child to feel like they can talk to you. Make them feel comfortable in these tricky conversations. This way, they are more likely to come to you for help in the future. Ask them about their feelings and why they feel the need to engage in this behavior. Show them that you are willing to listen without casting blame. 

You should also share your own feelings with them. Let them know how it feels to see them this way. Let them know how it is affecting their family and loved ones. The more you use open and honest communication, the more trust will develop.

3. Do remember your own needs

Often, parents of addicted adults forget to take care of themselves. It is necessary to remember to care for yourself. As much as you may want to put all your time into helping them, you have needs too. You cannot ignore your own needs in trying to take care of theirs. Putting their needs above your own may lead to resentment on your part in the future.

Love them, but love yourself, too. Don’t lose yourself trying to find a way out for them. Therapy and recovery is as important for yourself as it is your child.

4. Do set boundaries and limitations

While offering your help and support is important, you must set boundaries. There is a difference between encouraging treatment and demanding it. Set limitations for how far you will offer your support. Remember that the rest is up to them.

There are healthy ways to offer your support without overstepping your boundaries. One of these includes open communication. This means the conversation must flow both ways. Try not to let it become a lecture.

Another is to sit down with them and research treatment options together. Ask what they are willing to do to heal. Don’t tell them what they need to do. This shows them that you are there to help, but the choice is up to them. 

5. Do separate the behavior from the person

Remember that your child is not his or her addiction. As much as it may have taken over them, they are still there underneath it all. Your job is to remind them of that.

Don’t ask your child to change themselves, ask them to change their behavior. Address the addiction as a behavior separate from themselves. This will help you to avoid casting judgement or blame on them. 

Addiction is a disease. Treat it as such. It may have started from a decision, but it became something that can no longer be controlled. Make sure that both you and your child remember that they are more than this disease. 

Contact Us at WeedenLaw

If you are in the Denver area and your child is in legal trouble due to their addiction, let the Denver Drug crime attorneys at WeedenLaw help you. We know the burden that addiction can put on families. You don’t have to deal with it alone. Visit our website or call (720) 307-4330 today for a free consultation.

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