Parent’s Guide: Returning from Treatment

Susan Myrlin, MA, LBSW, LCDC

Keep Calm and Be Prepared

Before your child comes home:

  • Check for hidden drugs and paraphernalia: Clean out closets, jacket and clothes pockets, shoes/socks, dresser drawers, bathrooms, books/magazines, inside of writing pens and speakers.
  • Throw away old prescription medication bottles and secure over-the-counter medication and current prescription medication.
  • Secure current prescription medication so that your child does not have access to it.
  • Secure alcohol/beer/wine so that your child does not have access to it.
  • Working with your child and his/her counselor, develop an agreed upon list of friends and stick with it.
    • Know parent’s names, phone numbers, and addresses.
    • Determine whether or not your child will have access to electronic devices (cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc).
      • Have access to all passwords and examine frequently once your child returns home.

When your child returns home:

Remember Responsibility & Accountability:

  • Your child has learned a lot about making change in his/her life as well as thinking differently especially when it comes to drugs and/or alcohol use. So, no rescuing once he/she returns home. When mistakes are made, remember no covering up. Remind yourself that responsibility and accountability for one’s actions is an indicator of maturity and positive change. It is definitely not a reflection of one who is abusing substances.
  • Encourage your child to follow his/her “change plan”; go to support group meetings, attend counseling sessions, stay away from old drug using buddies, recognize high risk situations (HALT - hungry angry lonely tired) and be prepared to do something different, stay busy, eat healthy, exercise daily.
  • Make time to talk with your child – yes, schedule a time – on a weekly basis and discuss success, mishaps, concerns, plans…
  • Look for ways to promote your child’s self-esteem. A 'good job,' a thumbs up, a hug or a fist bump…. Just a simple acknowledgement of getting through the day clean and sober can help build self-esteem.

Thumbs up


  • Minimize the chaos. Put up a calendar in a location available to everyone in the family. Write down appointments, activities, holidays, household expectations & chores, family meetings.
  • Determine specific bedtime on weeknights and weekends.
    • You can be more flexible in the summer months, but once school is in session it's important to be firm with "lights out/electronics off".
  • Kids function much better on a predictable schedule. Remember, they have become familiar with responding to a schedule while in treatment.

Life structure


  • Parent should dispense all medication.
    • check for "cheeking" – pretending to swallow medication.
  • Count the number of pills in the bottle each time you dispense the medication.
  • Dispense as prescribed. Talk to your doctor first if your child wants to discontinue taking the medication. Then, follow the doctor’s instructions for doing so. Relapse often follows abrupt discontinuation of medication.
  • Keep all medication in a secure location.


Medication in a glass


  • Make sure you hold up your end of the agreement to take your child to all counseling sessions, meetings, and appointments. Not only is your child learning to change his/her lifestyle, your support, encouragement, and consistency during this change process is essential.
  • If you must miss a counseling appointment, be sure you call the therapist.


Putting Back In the Pot or Paying It Forward or Give and You shall Receive:

  • Whatever the case, think about speaking up at meetings or helping another family "up" when you see them in a similar situation as you. You will be amazed how this will reinforce everything you and your child have worked to accomplish.

Climbing uphill

Stay the course:

  • Expect that your child will test your limits.
  • There is no guarantee that your child will be successful after treatment. It doesn’t mean that treatment doesn't work, but rather more work and time is necessary for everyone – not just your child. The old saying "you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink" often applies in these cases. Recovery is a process that occurs over time. Unfortunately, it's not a onetime event.
  • Remember, you can’t force or rush change in your child. Both of you will need to work on creating a different lifestyle and this takes time and practice. Being a responsible and accountable parent will help you and your child reach the important goals which you have worked so hard to establish.

Winning the race