When a child is in the throes of addiction, Mom or Dad often becomes the punching bag, figuratively and sometimes even literally. They yell at us when they get in trouble, they blame us for their mistakes. “It’s all your fault!” is a common refrain in the homes of addicts and alcoholics. As a very backhanded compliment, young addicts tend to lash out and blame the parent who is the safest, the softest, and the most tolerant. They may also blame and attack the parent they feel they have disappointed the most, as that sense of failure creates overwhelming, explosive anxiety.
So what do you do when your child is imploding in your face? While it’s natural to get defensive and leap right into a yelling match, instead just “spit out the hook,” as they say. When your child rants and raves, just say “Oh” instead of defending your decisions or actions, or trying to reason with an unreasonable person.
It helps to have some tools at your fingertips to disengage. Learn how to say, “Oh” instead of trying to arm wrestle with an agitated child. Learn that you don’t have to say anything at all. Know that you don’t even need to be there. And your child loses the right to be in your presence if they become verbally or physically abusive. It’s time to take care of ourselves, and maybe–just maybe–that will help turn their tide of anger and lashing out.
Practice saying “Oh” so that it comes naturally under pressure, or just walk away altogether. You don’t need to stick around and take the abuse, which becomes like gasoline on a fire. It is so hard to not take the bait, but it’s harder to stop the confrontation before it starts.
And remember, you didn’t cause the addiction, and you aren’t responsible for solving the problems the addict creates.