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Grand Futures: Life skills to help child in recovery

For Steamboat Pilot & Today

When your son or daughter attends treatment for a substance use disorder, among other things, they’ll learn many techniques to maintain abstinence and to make more healthy choices. While individual therapy and group counseling are well-known techniques used to address substance use, it can be just as important that treatment includes life skills training.

Depending upon what was offered during formal treatment, as a parent, you may find that you will have to help your child learn these skills. In some cases, baby steps and lots of practice are needed, so patience is key. The following skills may benefit your son or daughter as they develop a healthier lifestyle.

Practicing self-care

The overarching life skill in recovery is practicing self-care. Indeed, the rest of this list of life skills are all elements of practicing self-care. The media sometimes presents self-care as luxurious and exclusive, and the phrase may conjure images of massages, yoga retreats and beaches. However, at its heart, self-care is really just about looking after yourself in whatever way works for you.

For your son or daughter in recovery, it could be as simple as personal hygiene, a clean living space and listening to his or her favorite music every day. It’s about addressing those urges to use substances in the first place and replacing them with something that’s going to be more helpful.

Developing a routine

Structure is an important component to keeping those healthy, timely habits on track. Completing your tasks at more or less the same time every day takes the decision-making and stress out of the process, so your child can be more automatic with his or her good habits. Routines are also great for attending the same support group or therapy session week to week. It doesn’t mean there can’t be room for flexibility, but consistency makes it easier for your child to focus.

Social skills

Your child’s social circle prerecovery likely consisted of people they used substances with, which makes it important to find or reconnect with others who are making healthier choices. This can be a real challenge, especially if your child has social anxiety. One parent coach said her son lamented that the only way he knew how to make a friend was to ask a new person if they wanted to smoke a joint. Social skill-building can improve self-esteem and deepen your child’s ability to feel more secure about their place in the world, and build a support system and community to help sustain their recovery.

Managing stress

Much like managing one’s emotions, stress management is a key component in ensuring that your child’s recovery is steady and to help prevent relapse. Stress can be a trigger for unhealthy behaviors, so it’s important for your child to learn how to cope with stress and determine what works best for them — taking a few deep breaths, going for a walk, reaching out to a trusted friend, going to a support group meeting — to reduce stress in the moment.

Before enrolling your child in treatment, especially a long-term residential program, be sure to ask if the program provides life skills training and what this includes. If your child has already completed formal treatment, consider assessing how your child is doing in these areas and what kind of help he or she may need.

This article was originally published by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and was edited for length. Find it at drugfree.org.


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