If you’re anything like me, I’ve become borderline obsessed with following America’s addiction crisis. My eyes become peeled to shows like Intervention and The Trade. And then, almost immediately, I think, how can I protect my kids in this crazy world of addiction? It is everywhere and was even in my home when I was growing up.
Addiction is All Too Familiar
Writing this post is deeply personal. I’ve experienced some level of involvement in addiction since birth. I grew up in a house that struggled with addiction, and my extended family struggled too. My grandparents were alcoholics. My parents weren’t keen enough to understand the signs of addiction, and because of that, no boundaries were placed on our relationship. They were allowed to drink and drive with me, take me to Oktoberfests and berate me during their drunken rages. It wasn’t until many years later, when my parents began to see the unhealthy patterns, that they set boundaries. When you grow up in the trenches of addiction and are too young to understand, you go through lengthy periods of self blame and learn unhealthy coping mechanisms. So, here I offer you, ways in which to form strong and fair boundaries so that your children don’t suffer!
What in the World are Boundaries?
Think of boundaries like rules. In a sense, they are used to protect. Setting strong boundaries can be extremely effective in helping your children. Think about it, you may have rules that say to your kids, like no cursing or no stealing. Just like those rules, personal boundaries are what you believe, value and define you. They show others what you are willing to do and what you’re not. Don’t be fooled, they aren’t easy to set especially in dealing with unhealthy family members.
How to Set Boundaries
Here are some questions to ask yourself when setting boundaries.
- What is the reality of the situation? Are your children being harmed by these individuals — maybe not even overtly, but covertly? Are they being exposed to substances that could harm them? If so, this is a great indication, that a boundary needs to be set!
- What is not okay with you? What will you do if your boundary is violated? If you’re dealing with someone close that is an addict, they will lie and violate all the boundaries you are trying to set. Be prepared! Be open with your children! Depending on their age, you may have to simplify your explanation, but children catch on so quickly, they will know that something isn’t right. If your boundary is violated, act quickly! Don’t continue to give the addicts in your life second and third chances. Yes, people can change, but you deserve to see changes before just assuming.
- What do your children need? They are some of the most important, if not the most important, people in our lives, so understanding their needs is crucial. And their most important need…SAFETY!
- It’s okay to be tough! You will have to enforce the boundaries because the addict is not going to do it for you! This will be uncomfortable but remember, you are doing it for your babies! So know, before you go, how you will share your boundary. Does this mean sitting down directly with the addict or with a group of people for support? Do what works best for you so that you can communicate your boundaries.
It’s Not Always Easy
Growing up in an addiction friendly environment was an unhealthy way to live. Since having kids, I have been able to see just how my childhood environment was so unhealthy. As a mom, my main priority is to protect my children and by setting firm and fair boundaries, I am able to take responsibility for my children lives and my own. Utilize your resources. Talk with a counselor. Read books, like the ones in these links, about understanding addiction and setting boundaries. Get the help you need, so your kids undoubtedly know and feel safe!