How Do You Deal with the Stress of Parenting in Recovery?

Dealing with the stress of parenting in recovery is hard, but it’s possible. Read this to learn specific stressors and ways to parent in recovery.

Parenting in recovery is incredibly stressful. Many parents feel unprepared to parent their children now that they’re sober and keenly aware of the stressors and issues that lie ahead. Attempting to meet the demands of both your children and recovery can be taxing, as can transitioning from an old way of life and patterns of behavior. These are just a part of the stress of parenting in recovery.

As difficult as it is to face the challenges of recovery like working hard to stay sober and repairing damage that’s been done in different realms of your life while simultaneously doing your best as a parent to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted kids, it is possible to do it. With education and information, purposeful effort, and compassion for yourself and your family, you can deal with the stress of parenting in recovery. Here are some ways to do it.

Stressors of Parenting in Recovery

Several different issues cause stress for anyone parenting after substance abuse. Prominent among them are

  • Rebuilding the trust in you that your children may have lost
  • Dealing with guilt and shame
  • Helping your children cope with your absences while using and/or during addiction treatment
  • Disciplining your children

A parent’s substance abuse diminishes their children’s trust in them. It takes patience, determination, and effort to rebuild not only the trust but the whole parent-child relationship itself.

Guilt and shame also cause stress for those parenting in recovery. Kids watch and feel the impact of their parent’s addiction. This guilt is a source of significant stress.  

To help children cope with their parent’s absences during addiction and treatment, talk to your kids openly. Listen. Answer questions honestly but age-appropriately. Acknowledge and accept kids' feelings.

When disciplining, guilt can make parents overcompensate, setting few rules and limits. However, kids need structure and boundaries. Hold your kids accountable for their behavior, and when they break rules, use natural consequences rather than harsh punishment.

Beyond these specific issues, you can do more to handle stress and parent your children.

How to Deal with the Stress of Parenting in Recovery: 5 Helpful Approaches

Perspective goes a long way when trying to parent under stressful situations. Adopting these attitudes as part of your daily life with your kids can make parenting better for you and your kids.

  1. Learn. Raising kids is an evolving process. Kids grow and change, and so do you. When you’re in recovery, the more information you have, the better able you’ll be to create a great relationship and discipline positively ("Do You Really Know How to Discipline Your Child?"). Use local resources like community centers, addiction services, and your library. Also search for articles online for information about parenting in recovery.
  2.  Patience. It’s normal to want things fixed and functioning the way you want them to be—now. You’re in recovery and it might be nice if everyone accepted that and just moved forward. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Your family, including you, needs time to accept the changes that have begun, process all that has happened, and deal with stress of their own. Be patient with yourself, your family, and the process. It’s the best path to family success.
  3. Acceptance. Know that the past is over. You are in recovery, and everyone is healing. Accept each day for what it is, with all the ups and downs. With acceptance, you can be present in each moment, deal with stress and problems as they arise, and then let them go.
  4. Flexibility. During your addiction, it’s likely everyone adopted rigid roles (the caretaker, the scapegoat, etc.). Holding onto rigid behaviors and expectations can be harmful. Be flexible in how you respond to situations that arise, and allow and encourage your children to do so, too. Letting everyone be who they are reduces family stress.
  5. Fun. Parenting in recovery can take its toll. Make time for family fun. Go someplace your kids love. Show them something new. Play board games at home. Have a picnic. Laugh. Having fun with your kids is one of the best stress-reducers there is.

Resist the temptation and pressure to become super-parent. Doing so adds pressure and makes dealing with the stress of parenting in recovery even harder. Expecting too much of yourself as a parent can even lead to relapse. Simply be your kids’ parent ("‘Good Enough Parenting’ Has Its Time and Place").

In those moments when you’re too hard on yourself, pause and remember this. Kids do pick up on quite a bit and are hurt by a parent’s substance use and abuse. Your kids pick up on the positive, too. They see, feel, and experience your attitude for growth, your effort to become and stay sober, and the idea that they motivate you. These perceptions come from a place of love. Parenting in recovery is stressful, but you just might find it worthwhile.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, July 22). How Do You Deal with the Stress of Parenting in Recovery?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: August 8, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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