Confronting addiction in our families can be a grueling and painful process, full of unforeseen mental and emotional challenges. We can feel as though we’ve let our children down and can therefore be filled with shame and regret. We can find ourselves analyzing all of the mistakes we might have made, all of the ways in which we might have harmed our children or contributed to their addictions. We blame ourselves for their addictive patterns and mental health issues. We let our worry get the best of us. One of the ways we can best support our children when they’re struggling with addiction is to learn mindful listening and healthy communication. We want to open the lines of communication so that they feel comfortable confiding in us, even about the most difficult things. We want them to feel supported, understood and heard.
Mindful listening is about applying our energy to actively hearing what our children are telling us. Very often we’re quick to respond. While they’re speaking, we’re busy thinking about what we’re going to say in response. We’re letting our minds wander. We’re consumed with worry, anxiety and reactivity. We miss a lot of what is being said to us. We miss opportunities to show our children that we are there for them. When we listen mindfully, we’re tuning into our children’s words and feelings wholeheartedly and with an open heart. We’re asking them questions that encourage them to open up more rather than reacting in such a way that frightens them and makes them shut down. We’re listening to what they say and trying to decipher the things left unsaid, beneath the surface. We’re not concentrating on our responses or even how we feel about the subjects at hand. We’re giving our full attention to our children.
When we listen mindfully, we’re able to catch the warning signs and red flags that we often miss when we’re focused on our responses and our worries. We see that our children are in distress, even when they aren’t able to tell us. We’re able to focus on finding solutions calmly and rationally rather than focusing on our own heightened emotional stress responses. For example, if our child tells us she’s being pressured by other children to experiment with drugs and alcohol, we can help her explore ways of coping, things she can do, things she can tell those kids, ways she can strengthen her own resilience, rather than reacting out of anger towards the children, their parents or the school. We can talk to her teachers, school counselors and administrators, as well as the children’s parents, enabling her entire community to support her. Listening mindfully strengthens our relationships with our children, empowers us to be able to support them, and helps them feel comfortable coming to us with anything they might be going through.
Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you get back the life you love. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.