As much as we may have detested the lectures we received growing up, we tend to inadvertently do the same thing to our own children. Lectures and sermons combined with shaming and blaming are not only ineffective but will drive a deep emotional wedge between parent and child.

Darcy Sweeney, who specializes in counseling and life coaching people recovering from addiction, says before beginning a standard, emotional lecture to your child about drugs and alcohol, there are three important points to to keep in mind:

  1. Tell Your Kids About Your Experiences with Drugs.

teen-drug-abuseOne of the most effective things that a parent can do, but are usually reluctant to do is to share honestly about their own struggles and failures. Most parents at one time or another have had experiences with drugs or alcohol that ended badly. Sharing these experiences with your children will not cause them to disrespect you, but instead levels the playing field and removes the barriers so that they feel safe enough to be honest about their own struggles.

  1. Stay Calm.

Once they are opening up to you, however, it is essential that you don’t use this information against them. Although it may be challenging to remain calm once you’ve learned some of the frightening truths about their drinking or drug use, if you violate this and revert back to a shaming, punishing parent, you will have lost sacred ground and trust.

When a child is struggling with addiction, they are full of shame about it. The nature of addiction facilitates behaviors such as lying, cheating and stealing, for instance, behaviors that greatly undermine self-esteem. They are already feeling a tremendous amount of self-loathing, regardless of how arrogant or entitled they may be acting. In fact, these are the very results of an individual riddled with shame.

  1. Continue Consistent Love and Support

Validate them as a total human being, your precious child, and a beloved member of your family. Although their behavior may have been rather uncomely of late, this is not who they really are, and it is important to remind them of this. They have lost sight of their true self. In speaking with them, always keep in mind the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt tells us that the behavior that we have indulged in is bad, and shame tells us that WE are bad. Guilt can be helpful and instructive as it can guide us away from bad behavior, but shame is not.  Shame deadens our spirit and knocks out our motivation to move forward. Shame can be deadly.  It is perfectly acceptable to use guilt to help guide your child’s behavior by encouraging them to pay attention to their internal compass.

Children, by nature are eager to please their parents and they tend to flourish when validated. Point out what they are doing well and focus on that. Regardless of how far down the scale they have gone, you can always find good if you look for it. Focusing on their mistakes and failures (shaming) is not only ineffective in terms of changing behavior; it is in fact, dangerous. It reinforces the negative beliefs they are currently holding about themselves and brings about a feeling of uselessness, hopelessness and desperation, usually resulting in acting out negatively.  The antidote for shame is unconditional love and acceptance. Use love as your guide and reach for all the compassion that is inside of you. Remember that your child is in pain and needs your love now more than ever.

About Darcy Sweeney, M.S.   –
Darcy Sweeney has battled addiction since her early teens. After years of fighting the battle, trough 19 treatment centers, she found herself. She found that her life’s work is to help people who are also caught in a similar battle. She established Life Design Mastery to empower those struggling with addictions to find the champion within themselves and learn to create the extraordinary life they would love to live. To learn more about Darcy click here: