If your teen or young adult child is in the recovery process from an addiction or dealing with a mental health condition, family support is always important. During the holidays, it can be even more important. The holiday season can be a stressful time for those struggling with various issues. Take a look at this list of the ways that your family, both immediate and extended, can support your adolescent as they go through the process of getting better.
1. Family Loves Your Child Unconditionally
No matter what type of mental health condition your child is dealing with, he or she is going to need the unconditional love of family. Friends might come and go. There will likely be at least a few friends who stick by your child’s side through thick and thin, but many people struggling with addiction or a mental illness find that some of their friends are fickle. This can be disappointing and devastating to someone who is already struggling, which is why family support is so important.
Talk to the people in your household and your extended family members about remembering to offer your child unconditional love. They don’t have to accept bad behavior or enable his or her poor choices, but they can still show love even when they don’t agree with specific actions. The holiday season, in particular, is a great time to show that love. Holiday gatherings are made more special and less stressful when there’s an absence of bickering and judgment, so encourage your family members to put aside any differences for a few weeks and love one another.
2. Family Knows What Your Child Has Been Through
During the holiday season, it’s likely that your child will run into extended family members and visit friends whom they only see at this time of the year. There might be a lot of questions and comments made by those outside the close family circle. Since your family knows what your adolescent has been going through, he or she might feel most comfortable within that close circle.
Ask your child if he or she is comfortable answering questions before guests begin to arrive. It might help if you ask close family members to stick close to your teen and act as a buffer in case rude or insensitive questions or comment are made. Because your close family members don’t need any explanations from your teen, he or she can relax during a hectic season and not worry about who is saying what, how to answer questions, and whether to address inappropriate comments.
3. Family Can Support Your Child in Getting Well
During this time, there are many holiday parties and events going on. People with social anxiety or depression might feel as though they are expected to attend all of the get-togethers that they are invited to, causing them to feel overwhelmed. In addition, going to these events might put someone in a situation that is harmful to their recovery.
There are many tasks to check off of the list, such as buying gifts, choosing outfits to wear, and deciding which events to attend. All of these things can make the holiday season a difficult time for people who are recovering from an addiction or struggling with a mental health condition.
Family members can help by minimizing the stress and anxiety that goes along with navigating these tasks. For an adolescent who is struggling with an addiction, family support can help them make the decisions that will help them stay sober throughout the holiday season. Family can also help those struggling remember to take their medications and to make time for their counseling or group therapy sessions.
4. Family Can Give Tangible Help
During the holidays, there might be a lot expected of your recovering or struggling child. Family members are in the perfect position to step in and assist wherever they can. This is particularly important if this is the first time your child has had to get through the holiday season while in recovery or treatment or if they are suffering from the holiday blues.
Some ways to show family support include:
- Offering to take your child to buy holiday presents. Shopping during the holiday season is sometimes more stressful than it is fun, so even a teen who normally loves the mall might shut down and feel anxious during the month of December when shopping centers are often crowded and hot. Having a family member along can make the process easier.
- Driving your adolescent to and from appointments. Although everyone is busier this month, it’s important that your teen gets to his or her treatment, counseling, and support group meetings. See if you can identify a couple of responsible adults who can take on this task once or twice during the holiday season.
- It’s helpful if your adolescent has someone to call if they begin to feel overwhelmed while out and about. Most of the time, parents want their teens to call them, but if you are unavailable or if your teen is uncomfortable calling you for any reason, it’s good to have a couple of backups in place. Ask your local family members if any would be willing to be on call for your teen to drive them home or to talk them down if they’re feeling stressed.
5. Family Can Set a Good Example
For a teen struggling with an addiction, the recovery process, or some other type of mental health condition, good role models are needed to set a good example in a wide variety of situations. Family can take the lead by modeling healthy behaviors. For example, your extended family might agree to have a dry holiday gathering if your teen is in recovery for an alcohol addiction. This way, your child won’t feel left out or tempted to partake in unhealthy activities.
Family support is important all year long, but during the holiday season, it’s even more vital. Talk to your family members about ways they can help you support your adolescent. At the same time, don’t be afraid to ask for support for yourself. Taking care of a child, even an adult child, with a mental health issue can be overwhelming. Your family likely wants to help, so take them up on it!