by Mandy Nunes, Assistant Director
August 1, 2023
The role of being a parent again, in recovery, has been such a blessing! I missed so much of my kids’ lives due to active addiction and I never thought I would have the opportunity to raise children again. I am so grateful I have a second chance at being a mom, of having the honor to help raise my partner’s now young teenagers. However, parenting teenagers isn’t particularly easy for anyone. Add to that us both being in recovery, my current mental health journey, both of our kids having behavioral health challenges, and us being a lesbian couple, and it makes the dynamics even more complex. As we navigate the path of parenthood and recovery together, it's been crucial that we’ve established open communication, built trust, and continue to foster a supportive environment for our teenagers. I’m going to share some practical strategies and insights that have helped us effectively parent teenagers while maintaining our well-being and recovery.
Embracing Open Communication
Open communication serves as the foundation for any healthy relationship, especially when parenting teenagers. Here are some areas we have focused on:
- Honesty and Transparency: We are honest with our kids about our recovery journey. They have witnessed the destruction of active addiction and are now experiencing stability, security, and growth. It’s important that they know and understand how this transformation happens and how we work to maintain it. I am transparent about my current mental health journey. They have seen me struggle with depression and panic attacks and have also seen me push myself to overcome obstacles and flourish. I’m open about therapy and the fact I take medications. This created a safe space for our daughter to share her mental health struggles and explore therapy as an option for her well-being. We emphasize the importance of self-care and personal growth, for all of us. We encourage them to share their thoughts and concerns openly as well. Sometimes this means discussing their past traumas, which we also encourage. Though it may be painful to be reminded of the hurt we caused in active addiction, it’s important that our children know that their feelings are valid, that we can take accountability, and that they have a safe space now.
- Consistency and Unified Front: We have established consistency in household rules and expectations between both parents, and we are transparent about expectations and consequences. Transparency and consistency are trauma-informed practices. It’s important that our kids know what to expect. Presenting a unified front ensures clarity for our teenagers and fosters a sense of stability. It also prevents arguments.
- Active Listening: We practice active listening to understand our kids' needs, emotions, and experiences. We get to create a safe space where they feel heard and supported.
Building Trust and Connection
Building trust and connection with our kids is essential for their well-being and the strength of our family. Here are some strategies we use to build trust and connection.
- Authenticity and Vulnerability: We share our recovery journeys authentically, emphasizing the positive changes it has brought to our lives. This openness inspires trust and encourages our teenagers to share their own struggles.
- Quality Time: We dedicate quality time to connect with our teenagers individually and as a family. We engage in activities they enjoy and create opportunities for meaningful conversations.
- Respecting Boundaries: We respect our teenagers' boundaries and privacy while maintaining open lines of communication. However, our kids know that if we feel their safety or the safety of someone else may be in jeopardy, we will choose to value safety over privacy. This balance helps build trust and fosters a sense of autonomy.
Supportive Network and Self-Care:
As parents in recovery, it's crucial we prioritize our own well-being while supporting our kids. When we prioritize and model self-care, our kids see the value and start to participate in their own self-care.
- Seek Support: We have both attended recovery support groups and therapy to help us navigate the challenges we face as individuals and as a couple. We surround ourselves with a supportive network of friends and family who understand our journey. Our daughter enjoys attending therapy and our kids feel safe and comfortable discussing struggles with their close friends and with ours.
- Time for Yourselves: We carve out individual and couple time to prioritize self-care. We engage in activities that bring us joy, promote relaxation, and contribute to our overall well-being. We play softball, go on date nights, and tackle home projects together.
- Mindfulness and Stress Reduction: We incorporate mindfulness techniques and stress reduction practices into our daily routine. This includes meditation, deep breathing exercises, and engaging in hobbies that quiet the mind and promote relaxation. My favorite activity to quiet my mind and be creative is cross-stitching. Our kids see me do this often, especially when I am anxious, and are learning to find stress-reducing activities that work for them.
Addressing Unique Challenges
Being lesbians and parenting teenagers has presented unique challenges. Some of the strategies we utilize with these unique challenges are below.
- Navigating Identity and Acceptance: We understand our teenagers will explore their own identities and know they may face challenges related to acceptance. We have worked to create a safe and loving environment where they feel supported and empowered to embrace their true selves. We have open conversations about what that looks like and feels like at school and with their friends.
- Educating and Advocating: We are proactive in educating ourselves and our teenagers about LGBTQ+ issues, understanding resources, and encouraging open conversations. This knowledge fosters understanding, acceptance, and resilience.
- Dealing with External Judgment: We have encountered external judgment and prejudice. We face political and religious adversity. Our kids have already faced judgement because they have 2 moms. We have prepared ourselves as a couple and we openly discuss strategies for handling such situations while prioritizing the well-being of our family.
Parenting teenagers in recovery requires strength, resilience, and dedication. By embracing open communication, building trust and connection, prioritizing self-care, and addressing unique challenges, we are creating a loving and supportive environment for our teenagers to thrive. We lean on our support network, seek professional guidance when needed, and celebrate the milestones and growth along the way. With love, authenticity, and a commitment to personal and family well-being, we can navigate this beautiful journey of parenting while in recovery, and so can you!