You may not have any firsthand experience with addiction, or even know what it means to be in recovery. “Addiction is a spectrum disorder that ranges from mild to severe,” says addiction specialist Dr. Rod Amiri with the luxury rehab facility, Malibu Hills Treatment Center.
What is important to understand is that not everyone in recovery has the same type, or severity of addiction. While some people may have lingered at rock bottom, guzzling bottles of hard alcohol for years, some people may have only had a few heavy drinks on the weekend, and are otherwise responsible people. Some parents may simply want to eliminate alcohol, or drugs altogether from their lives and seek recovery as an approach to a healthy lifestyle.
So, if you are concerned that the parent of a child whom your child is friends with is in recovery, know that not all addicts are created equal. In fact, someone in recovery may be a completely responsible parent and look after your little one easily. However, you can never be too careful when it comes to the wellbeing of your own children.
Here are just 5 guidelines to consider before sending your child to the home of a parent in recovery:
- Talk to Your Partner. Talk about a sleepover at a recovering addict’s home with your partner behind closed doors. You never want your child to know what is happening, as it could lead to gossip, but it is important that you know what their thoughts are about the issue. That way you can come up with a plan that works best for your child, if any problems arise. Or you may decide to decline an invitation for a sleepover altogether. Regardless, it’s a good idea to discuss some, “What if?” scenarios.
- Develop a Relationship Slowly. Trust is built over time, and if you are sending your child somewhere you want to know for sure that they will be in good hands. So, work your way up gradually to a sleepover at someone’s house that you know has struggled with addiction.
Ideally, you should schedule an afternoon or after-school playdate at your house and invite the parent of your child’s friend to join you, suggests Dr. Amiri. If this playdate goes well, schedule the next one at their house and ask if you can join them. This will give you an opportunity to get to know your child’s friend, their parents, their family and their home environment.
If your child pushes the issue, and insists on a sleepover, consider hosting the get-together at your house so you can supervise.
Amiri noted that letting your son or daughter go to a sleepover at an addict’s house may cause your stress levels to rise. On the other hand — inviting your child’s friend to sleep over at your home may help you reduce anxiety.
- Talk About Danger. Dangerous situations may arise at the home of another parent. If you are concerned that a parent in recovery could be dangerous, Amiri recommends developing an open line of communication with your child by saying something like, “If you see something that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, call me so we can talk about it.”
Simply teaching your child what to be cautious of can make a big difference in their ability to avoid dangerous situations.
- Check In With Your Child. Kids may not realize some dangerous behaviors, even if you discuss them beforehand. So, call your child if you send them out for a sleepover. Engage them in a conversation and just ask a few questions to get an idea of what happened since they left.
Here are a few examples:
- Did you eat dinner yet? What did you have?
- What games have you played?
- Did you make any crafts to bring home?
These questions may start conversations that reveal drug use, alcohol or other unsafe situations you need to be aware of. And then finally, tell your child “If you see something that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, call me so we can talk about it.”
How Can I Know For Sure?
As with most things involving your children, you want to know that they are going to be alright. But the fact is that nothing will be able to completely ease your mind of the fear that someone in recovery could slip up and make a mistake with their addiction around your child. So, if you want to know more about the disease of addiction, and the specific challenges and concerns of dealing with someone in recovery, look into 12-step groups like Al-Anon, or Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA).
These organizations can help you to more fully understand how addiction, and recovery works. And remember, “There is no one-size-fits-all solution to determine whether to let your child sleep over at an addict’s house,” Amiri said. “The key is maintaining open, age-appropriate communication with your son or daughter to find the right solution.”