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How Do I Rebuild My Kids’ Trust After Rehab?

“My children will never speak to me again if I have another drink,” said Jan, 58, mother of two children in their twenties. She had taken a leave from her prestigious job to go to rehab, and stayed sober for three years, attending AA meetings regularly and working a solid program. But it took more than that to earn her children’s trust again.

“They need to see that I’m working a program,” she told me. “They need to see that things are different. I make it to birthday parties and holidays now. I’m the one who comes early to set up and stays late to do the dishes. A few years ago, I was either too drunk to show up or passed out in a bedroom half way through the party. That’s not me anymore.”

Earning Their Confidence

Mom Hugging Child to earn trustRebuilding trust is hard. Here are some suggestions from parents who have worked hard to win back their kids’ trust:

  • Be Honest
    Share your struggles honestly, especially if your kids are now adults. Don’t make excuses, but share the things about your childhood or the life you had before they came along that influence you. They might understand more than you think.
  • Work a Program, But Make it Your Program
    This seems counter-intuitive when you want to show your kids that you’re doing everything you possibly can to make your recovery stick. But for recovery to be lifelong, it has to be yours. Don’t report on what meetings you went to or what step you’re on to your kids. That’s not their problem, and it’s not their business. Let your actions show that you’re on solid recovery ground.
  • Set Healthy Boundaries
    While in active addiction, we aren’t great with boundaries. Now it’s time to set healthy boundaries.Finding people to talk to other than your kids is a great start. Some of us leaned too much on our children, while others were completely closed off. Finding people we can talk to, whether it’s people we meet in recovery support groups, a therapist or just good friends, can take the weight off our kids. If we were completely closed off, sharing a little more with our kids may be in order. A happy medium where kids feel included but not burdened is the goal.