Our Teen’s Coming Home from Treatment: Are We Ready?

Don't be vulnerable when your teen returns from rehab - be prepared!

When a child comes home from treatment, it can be a time of celebration, but there’s usually a lot of tension, too.

What if he or she drinks/uses again? How much should we be involved in the child’s “program?” Should we get rid of all the wine in the house? Will we ever be a "normal" family again?

Being on the Same Page in Recovery

Here are some practical tips from people who have been there:

  • #1 Don’t Track Your Child’s Every Move

    “When my son came home from rehab at 17,” says Barbara, 49, "I kept tabs on where he was going, made him write his NA meetings on the family calendar, and even checked his cell phone records. Finally, he said, ‘Mom, I’m not child. Can you back off some so I can figure out how to live sober on my own?’”

    Kids need to develop their own identities in recovery. It’s tempting to want to monitor everything they do, but this actually makes it harder for them to find new patterns in sobriety. As long as you don’t see signs of dangerous behavior, try to give your kid some space.

  • #2 Expect Mood Swings

    Julia, 21, just celebrated her 300th day off of heroin and crack. She lives with her parents, and says this of her early recovery: “I just wish they knew to not freak out over everything. Every time I had a rough day or was feeling off, they assumed I was going to relapse. It was like they had no faith in me at all. My brain chemicals are messed up. I’m allowed to be moody.”

    Youths in recovery are still young people, filled with conflicting emotions. Don’t freak out over normal mood swings. They probably don’t signal a relapse – they’re part of growing up.

  • #3 Minimize Family Drama

    Minimizing drama is a key to successful early recovery for kids and adults alike. Now isn't the time to go deep into childhood trauma or subject your child to long discussions of “where it all went wrong.” Try to keep conversation light, and let your child develop the routines of normal life. There will be time later, maybe in family therapy, to deal with deeper issues.

    A child’s return from treatment can be a time for the family to come together, celebrate his or her achievements and enjoy forming a new life together. Take a deep breath and collectively settle in.

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