Kathleen Marco, CADCII, is the Program Director and Marketing executive for Azure Acres Recovery Center in Sacramento. She works with individuals in recovery from addiction to strengthen family relationships.

Kathleen Marco, CADCII, is the Program Director and Marketing executive for Azure Acres Recovery Center in Sacramento. She works with individuals in recovery from addiction and family members to strengthen relationships.

Kathleen Marco, CADCII, is the Program Director and Marketing executive for Azure Acres Intensive Outpatient Recovery Center in Sacramento. As a part of the continuum of treatment and ongoing support, she offers support group training on family relationships. I sat down with her last week to discuss the guidance and education she offers families suffering from addiction. One of the most important things she observes in families suffering the pain and discord of addiction, is a breakdown in communication – a basic skill that has also become a lost art. “We always must keep in mind the basics about communication,” she said, “What does it mean to really communicate and what are the boundaries.”

According to Marco, basic communication can be one of the very first things to break down in a family and is vital to establish healthy relations for maintaining recovery. She explains that basic communication skills include:

  • Communicate frequently
  • Be an active listener
  • Communicate clearly
  • Pay attention to non-verbal messages

Marco also explains that one of the fundamentals of cultivating healthy family relations is to recognize when there are obstacles preventing communication. Below are five barriers to communication that Marco shares in the family support groups:

  • When we assume that we know what others are thinking.
  • When we focus on what we want to say while others are talking
  • When we bring up problems and issues not related to the topic at hand
  • When we assume we know what is right for others and try to convince them of this

Note: Marco’s training also includes understanding boundaries, active listening skills and recognizing elements of family dysfunction, which will be the focus of another feature. Today’s feature focuses on how assumptions can hurt or help communication in families and the following offers my insights for every parent to consider.

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The problem with parent assumptions

The elements of good communication listed above seem simple enough, and they are indeed often easier said than done – especially in the lives we lead distracted and sometimes very misinformed with devices and apps. From the perspective of the parent, let us consider that some assumptions can kill open communication because your child is also harboring assumptions about you (i.e., my parents cannot understand my life and will not accept me if they know about my beliefs, experiences and issues) that might discourage them from relying upon you as a trusted resource to respond to the personal attacks they experience in their cyber-social realm. This is a circumstance which makes it nearly impossible to impart your wisdom which your child desperately needs.

How easy it is to ascribe a motive to the behavior of a child that is out of character or very disturbing? For example, if your child refuses to comply with a house rule or is engaging in activities that are risky or harmful, such as drug and alcohol abuse, has sent a nude photo of herself to a love interest and is being bullied horribly, or is using devices and apps that were forbidden or obtained without permission, or has engaged in communication with a stranger on-line: what are your thoughts about your child? Are your thoughts triggering feelings of helplessness, anger and embarrassment causing you to lose confidence in your child’s capacity to make good choices in the future? Or do you have thoughts of denial because it was only beer or marijuana and perhaps we can justify minimizing the risks because we do not know how to respond?

When kids are caught in risky or humiliating circumstances, the big question is do you really want to know what is going on with your child? In your own mind, is a child acting out an opportunity to know more about her as a person? 

For effective communication, check your assumptions

If you find your child in a world of trouble and hurt, check yourself from assuming things that kill communication, and give your child an opportunity to talk more about what is going on and their rationale for acting out without judging or condemning them. Get your child talking about why their actions are not okay and their desire to change their ways. Ask him: what he thinks is the problem with their choices and circumstances? Ask her: what she might do differently the next time?

And if you ask these questions with the confidence that your child wants to be a blessing to you and others; that deep, down in their heart of hearts your child wants to make a difference and do good in the world —you will be gratified at how readily your child will have the answers when given a chance to think correctly about what is the right thing to do, without feeling judged or condemned.

Most importantly, if your child is engaging in activities that are risky, do not minimize them. Risky activities include anything that involves potential self-harm or harm to others (such as eating disorders that involve binging and purging or starving herself to be thin; cutting; “experimenting” with drugs and alcohol; withdrawal into on-line gaming and social media that is compulsive; engaging in a bullying dynamic as an aggressor or a target).

Focus on assumptions that build trust and resilience

The problem with assumptions is that our human tendency is to assume the worst when an event inspires anxiety of fear (such as our child has navigated or is being drawn into risky territory).

So it helps to keep it simple.

As a parent, it helps to focus on some eternal truths that bring about peace and empower you and your child so you can confront the trouble with hope, and form a united front to withstand the consequences of poor choices or traumas with courage and turn things around for a better future. Below are some suggestions for assumptions that might bring about peace and empower you and your child:

  • My child is magnificent.
  • My child is a blessing.
  • My child has been born with a spirit of power and love and sound mind, which can never be taken – but must be defended, especially when they are in a struggle.
  • My child has God-given intelligent life and free will, which can never be taken and I am qualified to teach him how to defend this life and liberty with confidence.

In a crisis with your child? Stop assuming and get educated

If your child is caught in risky circumstances or decisions, it is time to learn something about yourself, your child and human nature. Below is a list of resources to help you and your child get educated together.

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MARK YOUR CALENDARS

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2016 Core Connectivity Fall Symposium

The Purpose and Power of Suffering

Friday Oct. 14, 8:30am sign in/9:00 – 1:30pm

Thank you to our Location Sponsor:

Azure Acres – 2641 Cottage Way, Suite B, Sacramento, CA 95841

Look for more details to register and the program content in future updates.

Event co-chairs:

Joanna Jullien, Founder and CEO of Core Connectivity

Mary Lisa Patton, Founder of Beloved Recovery 

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About:  We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).

Photo by: Christi Benz

Photo by: Christi Benz

Joanna Jullien is an educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. Trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, she is a mother of two grown sons, an author of books on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture, and produces the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com.