Helping Your Children Process Past Trauma

Making amends with your children

Helping Your Children Process Past Trauma

Tips for Recovering Parents

“Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past.” — Tyron Edwards

After processing your own recovery and healing your own wounds, you’re now ready to show your children the real you—your true self, just sober. Having made amends, you might feel it’s time to personally address your children and acknowledge the impact your past actions had on them. Recognizing the effect of your addiction on those around you, especially your children, is an important step in their healing.

Facing the Past with Courage

Though we might wish our past would stay behind us, it has a way of resurfacing when we least expect it. These moments remind us of where we’ve been and just how human we are. Memories we wish would fade can suddenly return, but instead of pushing them away, embrace them. Use them as a catalyst for healing and a reminder that your substance use disorder is independent of the person who you truly are.

Children, whether they’re six, 16, or 26, experience two mindsets when dealing with parental pain:

  • The Present Self: Represents their current maturity, coping mechanisms, and understanding, managing emotions and experiences in the moment while seeking balance and peace.
  • The Inner Child: Reflects their emotional state when the events occurred, holding onto unprocessed feelings like fear, confusion, sadness, or anger, still seeking comfort and validation.

Honoring the Inner Child

The inner child holds onto powerful emotions and vulnerabilities from past experiences. When making amends, it’s necessary to honor the child within them as much as their current age. This helps validate their feelings and provides a deeper sense of healing.

Why Making Amends Matters

Making amends involves two key steps: recognizing how your behavior has hurt others and working to repair the damage caused by your addiction. Addiction often hits hardest at home, with family and friends feeling the impact first. Even if you’ve moved on, the echoes of that pain might still linger for them.

Understanding how your addiction affected those around you is vital for their healing. This isn’t about dwelling on the past or feeling guilty—it’s about facing your mistakes head-on. By doing so, you not only heal old wounds but also strengthen your ability to identify who you are and where you are headed.

Steps to Making Amends

Direct Amends

Direct amends involve meeting face-to-face to restore trust and rebuild the relationship, if it won’t cause more harm. Your goal is to show that you’ve reflected on your mistakes, are truly sorry for the pain caused, and are ready to back up your words with actions. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry for everything,” be specific with your apology and share plans to rebuild the relationship. This approach helps your children feel your sincerity and makes them more open to accepting your apology.

Tailoring Your Approach

There’s no standard way to make amends, especially with children who might have felt emotionally responsible for their parent. When you’re ready, take a moment to reflect on your children and the impact of your actions. Think about each of them individually—who are they? What matters most to them? Understanding these aspects can help you connect on a deeper level and genuinely try to mend the relationship. It’s also helpful to lean on your sponsor or spiritual advisor during this part of the 12 steps—they can offer valuable guidance.

Addressing the Possibilities

Sometimes, making amends might not be safe or could do more harm than good. And sometimes, despite your efforts, you might not get the response or forgiveness you hoped for. That’s okay. What matters most is that you’re taking steps and opening the door to vulnerability.

Demonstrating Change

When you feel it’s time to show your children you are addressing your addiction, plan carefully. Consistency in actions will bear more weight than a sincere apology. Making amends is a big step; it shows you’re genuinely trying to move away from your old life and embrace a new one. Saying you’re moving on is easy, but if you haven’t helped the people affected by your addiction heal, that part of your past still lingers for them.

 The Right Approach

Adults often try to explain away their behavior, but when we lean on excuses, our apologies can lose their sincerity, becoming more about soothing our own discomfort than honestly healing the hurt we’ve inflicted. For a heartfelt apology, use these three simple steps:

  • Recognize the mistake: Take responsibility for your actions. Don’t blame others or make excuses.
  • Reassure them they didn’t deserve it: Show that you understand their hurt feelings. Offer a heartfelt apology.
  • Resolve: Work together on a solution, ask what you can do to make things right, or seek their forgiveness.

Making a Plan

A good starting point for making amends is to acknowledge how your actions have affected your child and to reassure them that you’re committed to changing for the better. Keep in mind that your child might not immediately embrace your efforts to improve—they’re probably still processing their own emotions about these changes.

Amends to Children:

  • Have another trusted adult there to support your child as they process this information.
  • Make sure the details are suitable for their age and their understanding.
  • Clearly lay out what they can expect in the future.
  • Offer a straightforward apology.
  • Give them the opportunity to express their feelings, even if it’s difficult for you to hear.

Amends to Adults or Teens:

  • Be genuine and transparent in your approach, sharing as much as you feel comfortable.
  • Be ready to tackle tough questions.
  • Approach the conversation with a listening ear without getting defensive.
  • Keep in mind, they have the final say in how they choose to respond to your efforts to make amends.

Adult children often view you through a parental lens while asserting their independence as adults. Respecting their self-esteem and emotional history is important, even if offering apologies feels uncomfortable. You might be surprised to find that some of their emotional experiences resonate with your own. Making amends is a meaningful part of healing and rebuilding trust with those you’ve hurt. It takes bravery, humility, and a sincere commitment to making things right.



Remember, Olalla Recovery Centers is here for your addiction recovery journey. If you or a loved one is ready to seek assistance for an addiction, the first step is to seek a professional who can help. Call or contact us anytime. For Inpatient/Residential Treatment 1-888-956-7913; For Outpatient Treatment 253.851.2552