How to Set Boundaries With Addicted Parents

Family walking through park

Publish date

Oct 18, 2021

Post Author

Healthy U Behavioral Health


Having a parent who struggles with substance use can be difficult to handle, to say the least. Not only does that parent suffer mentally, emotionally, and physically, but their child also faces tremendous issues every day. The entire life routine gets thrown into disarray, behavioral changes are obvious, and physical health issues begin to arise.

Depending on how old the child is, academic performance may suffer, work-life balance might go downhill, family time could be reduced, or social ties could go awry. The list of side effects of addicted parents on their children seems almost endless. One can only imagine the various ways children are affected by their parent’s behavior.

The Importance of Boundaries

For those children that are struggling with a parent going through a substance use disorder, a good option that remains is to set boundaries. Setting boundaries with parents can bring peace and give the child time to cope, not to mention serving as a great push for their ongoing recovery or treatment. Even if the parent has not started on their recovery journey, setting sufficient boundaries at home can help in a great way.

Here are some other ways how setting boundaries with addicted parents help:

  1. They help in safeguarding familial relationships, which are at stake due to the parent’s addiction behaviors.
  2. They help the child to indulge in activities that suit their age, rather than devoting all that time to helping or managing their parent.
  3. They help decide the responsibilities and roles to be played by every family member so that no one member feels all the burden.
  4. They help to quicken the recovery process, lighten the mental stresses at home, and manage the parent’s substance use.

However important setting boundaries may seem, setting boundaries within a home can still be an incredibly difficult thing to do, especially as a child. Parents often hold the power in the family relationship, and children are told to listen to them and “behave” in many cases. At the same time, though, the mental and emotional well-being of the children is too important.

The obvious question that comes to mind next: how would someone set boundaries with parents that are struggling with substance use?

4 Steps to Setting Boundaries

If you are a child that is struggling with parents that struggle with substance use, here’s a list of 4 steps you could follow to help with setting necessary boundaries:

1. No Parties That Involve Substance Use at Home 

When you have a history of your parents struggling with substance use, it’s understandable that you don’t want them to have a party at home where they drink and/or use substances. Whenever your parents wish to invite their friends over for such a party, make sure they understand you’re uncomfortable with it.

2. Set Up a House Rule: No Personal Insults or Ridicule

If your parents struggle with substance use, you have probably been through a lot physically, mentally, and emotionally. Maybe you’ve even endured personal insults and ridicule from them. However, it is never too late to set up a rule in the house to avoid personal insults. Making sure this rule is respected every time there is an argument or a fight is crucial to helping you preserve your self-worth and self-respect.

3. No More Covering up Socially or at Family Events 

When you keep hiding your parents’ behavior, either at home or in front of other relatives and friends, they may not feel the need to change. It is important they understand the repercussions of their behavior. Therefore, it’s important not to cover for them in social gatherings or family events.

4. Set a Family Routine and Compel Them to Follow 

Make some family routines for the household. For instance, a set dinner time where all family members should be in attendance can be beneficial. If a parent fails to attend due to their substance use, tell them they cannot be a part of the family only when they want and be absent otherwise.

Boundaries and Mental Health

If your parent is battling substance use, it affects your life, mental health, emotional well-being, and physical health in countless ways. Your life revolves around them, and you behave, react, think, and see situations differently. This calls for setting certain boundaries with your parents for your own mental peace. This should also give them time to cope with their substance use. These boundaries can help you to think better, react responsibly, and perform better at school or the workplace. No matter what age you are, specific boundaries can be beneficial for the mental health of everyone involved.

A parent struggling with substance use can affect the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of everyone else in the home. Children or teens of such parents suffer immense challenges on a daily basis. They need to manage their academics and work, as well as maintain at least some relationship with their parents. In such situations, setting certain boundaries at home can do wonders for managing the situation. If you are struggling to set these boundaries, you should seek external or professional help. Healthcare professionals have expertise with those struggling with substance use. HealthyU is a safe place to seek help from healthcare professionals experienced in tracking mindsets, detecting substance-related issues, and devising customized treatment plans. HealthyU offers different outpatient programs that get you easy access to trustworthy counselors for up to three days a week. If you are looking at normalizing your family life once again, feel free to call our representatives at (619) 542-9542.