Giving Our Children the Freedom to Live Their Lives

When addiction runs in our families, or when we fear addiction might develop in our children, we instinctively want to protect them and safeguard them from harm. We want to do everything in our power to keep the addiction from developing, or if it has already appeared, worsening and further overtaking their lives. When we’re worried about our children, sometimes our protectiveness can turn into control. We want to give them the freedom to live their lives fully, to learn life lessons for themselves, without being controlled or directed by us. We want to provide them with the structure and guidance they need to learn how to make good decisions for themselves, to take care of themselves, and to love themselves.

Sometimes controlling our children makes them distance themselves from us, an unintended consequence of our fear, worry and anxiety. Control creates resistance. When people feel controlled, their instinct is to defy that control and rebel against it. People want to feel independent and autonomous. They don’t want to feel as though people in their lives, including their parents, are dictating their lives or forcing them in any given direction. When our children want to resist our control, they start to rebel against us, defy us and lash out at us. They shut down and stop talking to us. They might even be more tempted to turn to addictive substances and behaviors, in an attempt to escape the stress and anger they’re feeling around being controlled. We want to keep the lines of communication open between us. We want them to keep talking to us and confiding in us. We want to encourage them to come to us with whatever is troubling them. They’re much less likely to do this when they’re feeling controlled by us.

In order to give our children the freedom they need to live their lives on their own terms, we have to learn how to step back, to relinquish our need for control, to allow them to come to us without being overbearing with them. We can’t impose our own views on our children, we can only share those views with them and teach them everything we think will help prepare them for the road ahead. We have to release our expectations about how things should go, how they should live, what kinds of lives they ought to lead. We have to be there to provide unconditional love and support but not try to dictate or control their lives. When we can do this, when we strike this delicate balance, we enable ourselves to be there for our children without pushing them away.

Riverside Recovery is committed to your family’s recovery. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.