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Learning to Mother Again

Learning to Mother Again

This Allies in Recovery member has been raising her granddaughter while her own daughter was dealing with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). The family drug court is now granting the mom more and more access to her child, but the grandparents are wary. Further, they feel unsupported in their concerns for their granddaughter. What can they do to ensure that their daughter is ready to resume her parenting role?

This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns. To take advantage of our current special offer and get access to the Allies in Recovery eLearning program for families and professionals, click here. 

“…We are dealing with a person who seems to be stuck here. We have tried to explain how her behavior was affecting others, specifically her own child. But there is a complete and total inability to see this. She becomes angry and indignant and attempts to make us look like we don’t know what we are talking about. And to make it more difficult, because she appears to be doing well in her recovery, the family drug court continues to push for her to get more access to her daughter.

While we also believe she should have more access, we want it to be safe and gradual. It is scary to think that her daughter’s emotional health may suffer throughout this process. Of course it already has. No one is removed from a parent without having a sack full of emotional baggage. We just feel unsupported and are made to feel as though we don’t want mom and daughter to be reunited. We do want that, but only if and when mom shows she can truly function in healthy patterns. The responsibility is very heavy and confounding trying to figure out what is the right thing to do.”

Dominique Simon-Levine helps to set the stage for this mother/grandmother’s next steps

It is hard to know where your influence lies here. From what you wrote, the drug court is not asking your opinion, but is instead going on toxicology results and perhaps treatment attendance. Since both are good, your daughter is getting increased access to her daughter who is in your care.

You don’t wake up one morning sober and magically know how to parent. Putting down the drink and drug does not provide you with life skills. It does, however, make you a whole lot more teachable. Can you get a note to the court recommending the addition of a parent group? Stengthening Families ( is excellent, and there are others as well.

Building and maintaining the communication bridge

If that isn’t doable, I’m sorry to suggest even more work for you. But can you look at the Learning Modules (available to our members) on Communication (an excerpt from this Module is available here) and Intervention (excerpt available here) and apply what you learn to getting your daughter to agree to a parenting group? Perhaps you stay off the topic of her parenting, since she just gets defensive. Modules 4 and 8 will improve how you communicate so that she relaxes around you. You’ll get that bridge built between you. Module 8 will help you prepare early by identifying where there are groups, the cost, the access issues, the barriers. You will practice scripting out how to approach your daughter.

It may sound something like this

Dad speaking (just a guess here that dad usually communicates less with your daughter about parenting issues):

“Darling, I am so very proud of your efforts to address your drug use. I feel like we have our daughter back. Thank you.”

“You are making such effort to take care of yourself. It makes me so very happy. I love you dearly.”

“I know we have had some hard conversations about the care of XXXX. It hasn’t been easy to know how best to care for either of you. I see that you are trying to do the best by her. I also see that she is having a hard time.” ( Example of this……..)

“Would you maybe consider learning additional skills for how to handle her when XX happens. I’ve found this parent group that comes highly recommended and is near to where you live. Perhaps we could all go together and learn how to respond to her when X happens, or Y. I think (your daughter) would benefit from all of us reacting to her in the same way; providing her a united front of sorts.”

“I feel so hopeful about our family. What do you say we just try it out.”

If she says no, you thank her for listening. You then drop it. You have planted the seed for another talk at a later time.

Small rewards can go a long way

One last thing. Your daughter needs to learn how to parent. When she is doing something right, remember to reward it. “You complimented her art work, nice job,” or “you stepped in before she got more frustrated and gave her some choices, well done.” Be specific about your praise. Shape your daughter’s behavior when you see even the smallest act of good parenting.

There are other grandparents on this site with issues similar to what you are going through. Thank you for writing in and let us know how it goes.

A membership at Allies in Recovery brings you into contact with experts in the fields of recovery and treatment for drug and alcohol issues. Our learning platform introduces you to CRAFT and guides you through the best techniques for unblocking the situation. Together we will move your loved one towards recovery. Learn more here.


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