Many people feel shame and regret about choices made while struggling with substance misuse. As a parent, you may feel bad about how you treat your children or the ways you may not have provided the best living environment. Children are able to pick up on negative emotions even if you try to hide them. The shame and guilt can undeniably impact their mental health, sense of self-worth, and ability to cope with stress. 

According to the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW), “Approximately 8.3 million children live with one or more adult who is dependent on alcohol or needs treatment for illicit drug abuse.” Newport Beach Recovery Center offers family support services, family therapy, and skill development to help parents recover from substance use disorder (SUD).

The Purpose of Shame 

All negative emotions have a practical purpose, and shame is no different. If you have a healthy sense of self-worth, you feel shame when you do something that does not match your moral compass or societal standards. Furthermore, the feeling urges you to look inward and analyze your actions, thoughts, and motivations. In fact, shame guides you toward making positive changes in how you think and act. The feeling only becomes a problem when you focus on it instead of your need to grow. 

How Children Internalize Parental Shame

If you leave shame to fester, it can become a black cloud that affects you and everyone around you, including family members. Unaddressed shame often turns into irrational anger, anxiety, or deep guilt. In due time, your child will see how your intense emotions impact your ability to function. Consequently, your child may blame themselves for the negative emotions that you experience. Adolescents and young adults sometimes lash out, act up, or withdraw emotionally in response to the following: 

  • Changes to parenting styles 
  • Parental depression 
  • Unusual irritation, anger, or mood swings from parents

Everything you do during treatment and long-term recovery will affect your child. Parents who exhibit maladaptive behaviors can cause children to internalize negative emotions. Guilt or shame can cause parents to treat children significantly more harshly due to negative thought patterns. 

How you feel about yourself will explicitly translate to how you treat others, including your child. According to the Journal of Child and Family Studies, “For children of depressed parents, the maladaptive influence of parental guilt induction may increase the child’s difficulty in distinguishing problems they have caused from those instigated by forces beyond their control.” 

Maladaptive Shame and Regret 

Shame and regret can motivate positive changes. However, focusing on past mistakes without accepting them can compound current mental health issues. As stated by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “Having a substance use disorder is a risk [factor] for maltreatment, as it may affect a parent’s ability to function as a caregiver and provide for their children’s basic needs, such as safety, security, and permanency.” Accordingly, feeling guilty for your shortfallings can only harm your child.

If you previously put your child at risk by not providing them with what they needed, now is your opportunity to make necessary changes that prioritize your child’s health and safety. Allowing negativity to take over will unquestionably hurt them more. You can avoid influencing them with your feelings of shame or guilt by accepting past mistakes. Mistakes can provide a reason to do better. Then, you move forward. 

The Impact of Negativity on Your Child’s Mental Health

How you think, feel, and act will impact your child’s development and well-being. Parental depression or negativity can cause the following side effects in adolescents and young adults:

  • Behavior problems, including acting out 
  • Mood swings 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Increased risk of developing mental health disorders and SUD 
  • Social anxiety 
  • Attachment issues

You can protect your child in the long run by being honest with them. Not only take responsibility for your past behaviors but also continue to make progress in recovery. Eventually, your child will notice the changes. If you focus on positivity and healing, your child will have less risk of developing a mental health or substance use disorder. You can protect them from experiencing additional emotional distress by giving yourself permission to accept your mistakes. After that, you can move past negative feelings like guilt, shame, or regret. Regain control of your life by choosing to move forward. 

Seeking a Better Way Forward

You do not have to live with constant shame, guilt, and regret. To address these issues, you can do  the following: 

  • Get help from your support system 
  • Process your negative emotions in individual therapy 
  • Attend parenting classes or support groups 

Most important, you need to remember that your family can grow closer and repair any damage caused by maladaptive shame and guilt. We can help you find a healthy path forward at Newport Beach Recovery Center. Our compassionate care team will provide the tools you need to overcome depression and negativity. 

Your children will notice if you begin to experience depression or anxiety due to negative emotions related to your substance abuse. Overthinking past decisions is not always helpful. Holding onto shame, guilt, or regret about how your past actions affected your family will do nothing except leave you feeling miserable. Children will notice when you feel sad, angry, or anxious, and may assume they did something wrong. If you do not communicate clearly with your children and learn to overcome negativity, they may have an increased risk of developing mental health issues related to your SUD. You can protect them by using family support services like family therapy to overcome shame and show your children how much you love and care for them. Newport Beach Recovery Center can help you learn healthy ways to cope with negative emotions. To learn more, call us today at (888) 850-0363.