talk to adult children about treatment
September 28, 2023 By Leah Malone

How to Talk With Adult Children About Treatment


Women in treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) may hesitate to mention their struggles with adult children. Fear of judgment, loss of respect, or shame cause some mothers to avoid talking to adult children about their diagnosis and treatment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Families should be open to the options of support groups or family therapy and counseling, which can improve treatment effectiveness by supporting the whole family.” Emerge Recovery TX offers family therapy and other support services to help mothers connect with their adult children during treatment. 

Talking About Substance Misuse With Adult Children

Adult children often have complicated relationships with parents who struggle to overcome chronic substance misuse. Adults raised in homes where substances were misused may resent their parents or have mental health issues caused by the unhealthy environment. Many adults are sensitive about addiction and recovery even without trauma related to family substance misuse. SUD affects every family differently. Treatment must be tailored to the family and their unique needs and dynamics. Clinicians at Emerge Recovery TX guide mothers through finding positive ways to incorporate adult children into their recovery journey.

Mothers talk to their adult children about treatment and substance misuse in several ways, including:

  • In one-on-one discussions 
  • Through an advocate, including family members or close friends
  • With the guidance of a counselor or therapist 

Family therapy is a good setting for discussing how SUD has affected everyone in the family. Studies have shown, “Parental substance misuse is especially damaging to both young and adult children.” Children of parents who misuse substances have a higher risk of experiencing SUD and mental health issues later in life. Families use therapy and other recovery support services to heal from the damage caused by substance misuse.

Peer Support Helps Mothers Feel More Confident Speaking With Adult Children

Some mothers hesitate to have important conversations with their adult children due to shame, regret, or embarrassment. Internalized stigmas and low self-confidence make it more stressful for some women to have open and honest conversations with their adult children. Therapy and peer support help women gain confidence and understand how addictive behaviors affect relationships. 

Anticipating a negative reaction from adult children may stop mothers from reaching out and gaining the support of their loved ones. Group therapy and other peer interactions allow mothers to share their feelings with other women who have similar life experiences. Peers provide insights, actively listen, and offer encouragement. Sharing their insecurities and concerns about how their children may react reduces anxiety and makes it less stressful for some mothers to approach the topic with their loved ones. 

Educating Your Adult Children About Substance Use Disorder

Clinicians at Emerge Recovery TX can share educational resources with mothers to ensure they can answer any questions their children may have about their diagnosis and symptoms. Educating adult children about addiction, recovery, and sober living may give them valuable insights into their parent’s recovery. 

Some popular education resources for families experiencing substance misuse include the following:

  • SAMHSA offers many online research articles, educational documents, and brochures 
  • Virtual and in-person recovery support groups for the families of people in recovery
  • Local community centers or clinics may have educational classes on mental health and addiction 

Case managers at Emerge Recovery TX have access to additional educational resources.  

Discussing Mental Health and Addictive Behaviors With Your Adult Child

Children may have complicated feelings about their parent’s substance misuse. Discussing mental health and addiction requires being vulnerable and sharing from the heart. Some mothers may not know where to start or how to express themselves effectively.

A few ways mothers may choose to begin the discussion about mental health and SUD include:

  • Writing out a script and reading it to loved ones or sending it as a letter
  • Disclosing the diagnosis and discussing the topic over the phone to provide physical distance and reduce stress
  • In-person disclosures and discussions to avoid miscommunication 
  • Through the mediation of a loved one, spiritual leader, family therapist, or counselor

Mothers in recovery can work with their care team to determine the best way to reach their family members. Factual statements are best when discussing mental health and SUD. Avoiding emotional tangents or passive-aggressive language decreases tension and makes communication more effective. 

How Does Emerge Recovery TX Help Mothers Connect With Children During Recovery?

Often, every family member has some form of residual trauma related to a parent’s substance misuse. Emerge Recovery TX encourages mothers and their loved ones to participate in family support services. The clinicians collaborate with families to ensure they understand how best to support their loved one in recovery. Mothers in outpatient programs rely on their care team to help them educate and inform their loved ones about the realities of addiction. Families in treatment can find healthy ways to move forward and grow together.

Women in treatment face stigma and often internalize negative self-talk. Clinicians work with each client to ensure they find healthy ways to replace internalized stigmas and uncertainty about how others may perceive their diagnosis. Mothers with adult children often worry their loved ones won’t understand their situation. Children who grew up in households with substance misuse may have complicated relationships with mothers attending recovery. The clinical team uses family therapy and other services to help mothers repair relationships with their adult children and find healthy ways to connect during recovery. Family engagement in treatment and ongoing recovery reduces the risk of relapse. To learn more about how Emerge Recovery TX supports mothers in recovery, call our office at (737) 237-9663.

About Author

Leah Malone

Learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings can be painful and disturbing at times. When Leah was able to see her behavior patterns and decided there was enough pain to be disturbed, she became motivated to make changes and accept the work that needed to be done to heal. She needed direction and had no clue how to heal on her own. Through a connection with God, authentic connection with others, honesty, willingness, and humility, Leah is now in recovery from addiction and trauma.

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