How to Help an Addicted Parent

Empower yourself with ways to help an addicted parent. Unlock freedom and support their recovery journey.

Leora BH Staff
May 21, 2024

Understanding Addiction in Parents

When a parent struggles with addiction, it can have a profound impact on the entire family. Understanding the effects of addiction on family dynamics and the risks it poses to children is crucial in providing support and seeking appropriate help.

Impact on Family Dynamics

Families dealing with a parent's substance use disorder (SUD) often experience significant disruptions in various aspects of their daily lives. According to a study, the negative impacts on the family can include disruption of attachment, rituals, roles, routines, communication, social life, and finances [1]. These disruptions can create a chaotic and unstable environment, which can be particularly challenging for children.

Parents with SUDs may struggle with assertiveness and direct communication, leading to an unstructured and chaotic family environment. This instability can impact children's social and emotional functioning, making it difficult for them to develop healthy coping mechanisms and navigate their own lives [1].

Risks to Children

Children affected by parental substance abuse are at a higher risk for various childhood disorders, including but not limited to eating disorders, behavior disorders, anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and SUDs. The exposure to a parent's addiction and the resulting family dynamics can have long-lasting effects on children's mental and emotional well-being.

Furthermore, children growing up with a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol are more likely to experience neglect or physical and/or sexual abuse, being three times more likely to be victims of such abuse [2]. These traumatic experiences can have severe consequences on children's overall development and increase their vulnerability to mental health issues and substance use disorders in adulthood.

It is essential to acknowledge and address these risks to children's well-being when working towards supporting families affected by parental addiction. By understanding the impact of addiction on family dynamics and the potential risks faced by children, we can take steps to provide the necessary support and resources to help both parents and children on their path to recovery and healing.

Communicating with an Addicted Parent

When dealing with a parent who is struggling with addiction, effective communication is essential for providing support and fostering a positive environment. In this section, we will explore two key aspects of communication: addressing stigma and language use, and employing active listening and support.

Stigma and Language Use

It is important to recognize that addiction is highly stigmatized in society. Individuals with addiction often face criticism, insults, and rejection, which can hinder their recovery process. When communicating with an addicted parent, it is crucial to approach the conversation with kindness, empathy, and understanding.

Using stigmatizing terms like "addict" or "substance abuser" can contribute to negative perceptions and impact how individuals feel about themselves and their recovery journey. Instead, opt for person-first language, such as referring to them as a "person with addiction." This approach helps to humanize the individual and emphasizes their worth beyond their addiction [3].

Active Listening and Support

In conversations with an addicted parent, prioritizing active listening over talking is crucial. Allow them to express themselves without interruptions or criticism. This approach creates a supportive environment where they feel heard and valued. It is essential to maintain normal conversations beyond focusing solely on their addiction, as this helps maintain a sense of normalcy and connection with them.

Consistency in both words and actions is key when communicating effectively with someone struggling with addiction. Clearly communicate boundaries and avoid enabling behaviors that may exacerbate their addiction. Using "I feel" statements can shift the conversation away from blame and towards understanding, promoting open and honest communication [3].

When an addicted parent confides in you, it is crucial to believe and respect their experiences. Disagreeing with them or making excuses for their behavior can hinder their recovery process. Trusting them and showing support without enabling their behavior can be highly beneficial for their journey towards recovery.

By addressing stigma and using language that emphasizes the person beyond their addiction, and by actively listening and providing support, you can establish a foundation for effective communication with an addicted parent. Remember, your words and actions play a vital role in their recovery journey, and providing a non-judgmental and supportive environment can make a significant difference in their path to healing.

Seeking Help for an Addicted Parent

When faced with the challenge of helping an addicted parent, it's important to seek out appropriate resources and support systems. This section will explore some valuable resources for support and highlight the role of family support groups in assisting individuals dealing with an addicted parent.

Resources for Support

Finding the right resources can make a significant difference in helping both the addicted parent and the family members affected by their addiction. Here are some key resources that can provide guidance and assistance:

  1. Parent-to-Parent Support: Health Canada offers a Parent-to-Parent support program, which can be accessed through online support groups or by calling 1-866-366-3667 or filling out an online contact form. This program provides a platform for individuals to connect with others who have faced similar challenges, offering understanding, encouragement, and a sense of community.
  2. Provincial and Territorial Health Services: In Canada, provincial and territorial health services provide a range of resources for individuals dealing with substance use. These services offer helpline numbers, email contacts, and other means of communication to assist those in need. For example, the Kelty Centre in British Columbia can be reached at 1-800-665-1822 or through email at These services can provide valuable information, referrals, and support specific to your location.
  3. Harm Reduction Centers: Harm reduction centers play a crucial role in providing assistance to individuals struggling with addiction. These centers offer services tailored to minimize harm associated with substance use. They provide locations, resources, and support to those in need. Helpline numbers for harm reduction centers in Canada include 1-902-470-8888 and 1-888-470-5888 [4].

Role of Family Support Groups

Family support groups can be invaluable in helping individuals affected by a parent's addiction. These groups offer emotional support, education about addiction and recovery, and the opportunity to learn coping strategies and healthy boundaries. They provide a safe space for family members to share their experiences and gain insights from others who have faced similar challenges.

Two widely recognized family support groups are Al-Anon and Nar-Anon. These groups have a long-standing history of supporting families affected by addiction. By attending meetings, family members can connect with others who understand their struggles, gain knowledge about addiction, and develop effective coping mechanisms. Both Al-Anon and Nar-Anon offer a supportive environment that encourages personal growth and healing.

In addition to family support groups, professional counseling and therapy are essential for families affected by addiction. These services provide a safe and confidential space to address underlying issues, develop effective communication skills, and navigate the complexities of addiction within the family dynamic. Professional guidance can empower individuals to better support their addicted parent while prioritizing their own well-being.

By accessing appropriate resources and engaging with family support groups, individuals can find the support and guidance they need to navigate the challenges of having an addicted parent. These resources can provide a sense of community, knowledge, coping strategies, and the assurance that they are not alone in their journey. Remember, seeking help is a courageous step towards unlocking freedom and creating a healthier environment for both the addicted parent and the entire family.

Addressing Addiction in Adolescents

When it comes to addressing addiction in adolescents, it is crucial to implement strategies that take into account their unique needs and circumstances. Two key components of effectively addressing addiction in adolescents are family therapy and tailored treatment programs.

Family Therapy Importance

Family therapy plays a crucial role in addressing addiction in adolescents. It focuses on the entire family unit and its dynamics, aiming to improve communication, establish healthy boundaries, and address underlying issues that may contribute to substance abuse. By involving the family in the recovery process, it creates a supportive environment and promotes a sense of unity.

Through family therapy, family members can gain a better understanding of addiction and its impact on the adolescent and the family as a whole. It provides a safe space for open and honest communication, allowing family members to express their concerns, emotions, and perspectives. Family therapy also helps identify unhealthy patterns and dynamics within the family system that may contribute to the adolescent's substance abuse.

Ultimately, family therapy promotes healing and recovery not only for the adolescent but also for the entire family unit. It strengthens relationships, builds resilience, and equips family members with the tools and strategies needed to support their loved one's recovery journey.

Tailored Treatment Programs

In addressing addiction in adolescents, tailored treatment programs are essential. These programs are designed specifically to meet the unique needs of adolescents struggling with substance abuse. They provide age-appropriate interventions, therapeutic support, and education to help adolescents overcome substance abuse and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Tailored treatment programs take into consideration the developmental stage of adolescents, their emotional and psychological needs, and the challenges they may face in their recovery journey. These programs often include a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, and educational sessions. They aim to address the root causes of addiction, teach vital life skills, and foster a sense of empowerment and self-worth.

By providing a supportive and structured environment, tailored treatment programs equip adolescents with the necessary tools to navigate the challenges of recovery. These programs also promote peer support and connection, allowing adolescents to build relationships with others who are going through similar experiences.

It's important for families to actively participate in the teenager's recovery journey. Seeking professional help, engaging in family therapy, and fostering open communication and trust can significantly contribute to their recovery and long-term well-being. By working together, families can create a solid foundation of support and understanding, helping adolescents overcome addiction and thrive in their lives.

Addressing addiction in adolescents requires a comprehensive approach that combines family involvement, specialized treatment programs, and ongoing support. By implementing these strategies, we can provide the necessary support and resources for adolescents to overcome addiction, heal, and lead fulfilling lives.

Support Services in Canada

When it comes to helping an addicted parent in Canada, there are various support services available that can provide assistance and guidance. These services aim to offer support, resources, and information to both the individuals struggling with addiction and their families. Two key support services in Canada include national helpline assistance and indigenous-specific programs.

National Helpline Assistance

For individuals seeking immediate help and guidance, national helpline assistance is a valuable resource. These helplines are accessible to anyone, anywhere in Canada, and provide confidential support for substance use issues.

HelplineContactKids Help Phone1-800-668-6868Crisis Text LineText 686868Drug and Alcohol Helpline1-855-562-2262

These helplines offer a listening ear, crisis intervention, and can provide information on available treatment options. They are staffed by trained professionals who can offer guidance and connect individuals with appropriate resources in their area. The helplines are available 24/7, ensuring that support is accessible whenever it may be needed.

Indigenous-Specific Programs

For Indigenous individuals and families dealing with addiction, there are specialized programs tailored to their unique needs. These programs recognize and respect Indigenous cultures, traditions, and healing practices, providing a culturally sensitive approach to addiction treatment and support.

Some of the programs available include:

  • National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program: This program supports community-based prevention and treatment services, emphasizing cultural values and approaches to substance use recovery.
  • National Youth Solvent Abuse Program: Focusing on solvent abuse prevention and intervention, this program aims to address the specific challenges faced by Indigenous youth.
  • Treatment Centers: There are numerous treatment centers across Canada that cater specifically to Indigenous individuals. These centers offer culturally appropriate treatment modalities and support services.

By providing culturally relevant care and acknowledging the unique experiences of Indigenous communities, these programs aim to foster healing and recovery.

When seeking support for an addicted parent in Canada, individuals can utilize these resources to access the help they need. Whether through the national helpline assistance or the indigenous-specific programs, reaching out for support is an important step towards empowering both the parent and their family on the journey to recovery.


Contact Us

Leora Behavioral Health offers a comprehensive addiction treatment program to help you get your life back on track. Our trained professionals will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that meets your unique needs. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, reach out to Leora Behavioral Health today.

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