Co Parenting with a Drug Addict: Strategies for Navigating Challenges

Parenthood is a demanding task. If you are co parenting with a drug addict, reach out to We Level Up Treatment Centers for help and support.

Parenthood is an enjoyable yet demanding task, and it becomes that much more challenging when co parenting with a drug addict. Struggling with addiction means changes in a partner´s behavior, a lack of support and availability, and, unfortunately, sometimes child neglect as well. 

Although co parenting with a drug addicted partner is not easy, resources are available to make it feasible. Key things to keep in mind are communication and boundaries. Both parents should always have their child´s best interests in mind. 

Finally, addiction is treatable, and helping a struggling partner can start with awareness, advice, and guidance. We Level Up Treatment Centers can be your partner and provide support for both people struggling with substance abuse and their families.

Understanding Addiction in the Context of Co-Parenting

National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. Addiction affects one´s brain and mental health and can cause lifelong changes to the body that can be life-threatening. Although it is an individual disorder, it can easily be said that addiction is a family disease as it affects families, their dynamics, and their mental health. 

Co Parenting with a Drug Addict banner

Having an addiction severely impacts people’s behavior. Other than responding to cravings by showing more drug-related behaviors (like seeking drugs, using drugs, or even entering criminal acts to obtain drugs), people lose interest in other activities and neglect their tasks, chores, and assignments. It means that when your co parent is an addict, you can expect them to forget their obligations towards the child, show no interest in spending time with the kid, or even, according to research, neglect children.

Keep in mind that although co parenting with a drug addict presents the biggest challenge, co parenting with anyone using substances can be difficult. Under the influence of substances, people become reckless and, therefore, less reliable. 

There´s no simple solution for how to co parent with an addict. However, co parenting with a drug addicted partner is possible if some strategies are put in place. Communicating in an effective way, setting healthy boundaries, and even considering different custody arrangements can be of tremendous help.

A family showcasing co parenting with a drug addict.
Co parenting with a drug addict can be a challenging experience.

Recognizing the Signs: When Your Co-Parent is an Addict

Recognizing signs of addiction in other people can be difficult and depends on your dynamic with that person. You can´t be aware of their inner struggles or physiological signs of addiction, and addicts frequently lie and pretend in order to hide their addiction. Information you can use to draw conclusions is changes in behavior and visible physical symptoms

Here are some signs to pay attention to:

  • Changes in motivation
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Changes in daily routine
  • Troubles with money, unusual need for it
  • Changes in social circles and activities 
  • Lack of concern for personal hygiene
  • Shakes, tremors, or slurred speech
  • Bloodshot eyes and frequent nosebleeds 

Early recognition and acceptance that your partner has a substance use problem can affect the experience of co-parenting, as a quick reaction to a substance use disorder increases chances of recovery and, therefore, prevents many negative outcomes of co parenting with a drug addicted partner. 

Get Help. Get Better. Get Your Life Back.

Searching for Accredited Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centers Near You?

Even if you have failed previously and relapsed, or are in the middle of a difficult crisis, we stand ready to support you. Our trusted behavioral health specialists will not give up on you. When you feel ready or just want someone to speak to about therapy alternatives to change your life call us. Even if we cannot assist you, we will lead you to wherever you can get support. There is no obligation. Call our hotline today.

(844) 597-1011

Effective Communication Strategies

One of the strategies experts in substance abuse suggest for co parenting with an addict is establishing effective communication in regards to children and their well-being. Parents face a specific challenge in separating their roles as partners and co-parents. One thing to always keep in mind is the child´s best interest. 

Here are a few practical tips on how to smooth communication when co parenting with a drug addict and ensure its effectiveness. 

  • Be aware of your impulses and triggers. Try to understand your personal style of communication and what triggers emotional responses. Ask yourself whether you are direct, aggressive, or defensive when communicating. Identify what makes you converse in such a way. This awareness can prevent potential issues by making you less reactive and more present during the talk. 
  • Limit personalizing. Make an effort not to take things personally or make them personal. Don´t use hurtful language or your partner´s triggers when trying to make a point. Also, try not to take things personally; understand that an addict can speak out of character due to their addiction. 
  • Rely on solution-focused vs. blaming language. Pointing fingers is of no use. Blaming the other side can only make them less likely to communicate and can stray you away from your conversation’s focus—your child. Be solution-focused. Don´t think of each other as enemies; think that you are on the same side, facing a common enemy—a problem. 
  • Keep your child’s interests in mind. Whenever you sense that a conversation is becoming unproductive, ask yourself how your child is benefiting from this communication. This keeps you grounded and focused on the goal of communication and helps avoid biases and accusations. 
A couple fighting, illustrating difficulties of co parenting with a drug addict
Effective communication is essential when your co parent is an addict.

Setting Boundaries with an Addicted Co-Parent

There are several reasons for setting boundaries with an addict, and they are that much more important when you are co parenting with a drug addict. By setting healthy boundaries, you are supporting everyone related to the addict—you, your child, and the addict himself/herself. Clear rules coming from healthy boundaries are important for maintaining emotional balance. It also helps with family dynamics as it prevents counterproductive behavior. Finally, it aids the addict´s recovery journey. 

Here are a few steps to take to establish boundaries when your co parent is an addict:

  • Identify limits. Be aware and communicate what behavior is acceptable and what is not. 
  • Communicate clearly. Implement the strategies for effective communication mentioned above. 
  • Be firm but compassionate. Show empathy while sticking to the agreement you made. Establishing boundaries requires consistency. 
  • Be realistic. Set realistic boundaries and be ready to act as you agreed. 
  • Look for support. Find support among family and friends, and consider getting professional help as well. 
  • Think of yourself and your child. Keep in mind that your mental health and that of your child are priorities. Be ready to change established boundaries if needed.

Sometimes co parenting with a drug addicted partner becomes too much. You might feel you cannot rely on them or even trust them anymore. Yet, it can be difficult to hold your partner outside children´s lives. When this situation imposes a threat to children, threatening their safety, it might be time to involve legal institutions and consider different custody arrangements. 

Establishing or changing custody is not easy for the family, so if possible, try making informal arrangements with your partner, especially if you believe this is only a temporary solution. However, if that is not possible, you should turn to the legal support system. Legal actions can take time, and custody is not easily won. The family attorney will need to collect proof that the child is in danger and that custody changes are in the child’s best interest.

Ryan Zofay forming a circle and hugging friends.

Get Your Life Back

Find Hope & Recovery. Get Safe Comfortable Detox, Addiction Rehab & Dual Diagnosis High-Quality Care.

Hotline(844) 597-1011

Support and Treatment Options for the Addicted Parent

As a person co parenting with an addict, you might be actively looking for ways to help them. Helping an addict is not an easy task and requires them to become aware of their problem and be willing to work on it. For many, being a parent provides motivation to address their substance abuse issues.

What you can do to aid them is look into drug and alcohol rehab options and support them in taking their first step toward recovery. Keep in mind that, although challenging, co parenting with recovering addict is easier than co parenting with a drug addicted partner. 

We Level Up Treatment Centers can help you find a solution but also encourage your partner to seek help themselves. We can offer a well-crafted drug addiction treatment that supports both the person struggling and their family.

Two people holding hands showing mutual support when co parenting with an addict
Look for support to learn how to co parent with an addict.

Support for the Non-Addicted Parent

Having an addict as your partner or co parenting with an addict, requires a mental and emotional effort that can sometimes be overwhelming. In these situations, it´s important not to feel alone but rather to take care of yourself and find a supportive environment. You may choose to learn about addiction or develop skills that will help you deal with your situation. 

Friends and family can be of great help, but looking for help from professionals can provide you with reliable information and evidence-based approaches you won´t be able to find elsewhere. We Level Up Treatment Centers can provide you with assistance, guidance, and advice on how to take care of yourself when your co parent is an addict.

The dynamic of co parenting with a drug addict changes once they decide to seek help and fight their addiction. As a non-addict partner, you might be challenged again to find a balance between being a present parent and a supportive partner.  

Co-parenting with recovering addict means that new boundaries would probably have to be set. The availability of those in recovery and their participation change. They will build new coping mechanisms and develop skills affecting communication and behavior. This is an opportunity to rebuild trust and restructure parenting.

Embracing Support While Co Parenting with a Drug Addict

When your co parent is an addict, you are facing many challenges and struggles. You ought to equip yourself with knowledge, patience, and support to navigate them well with as little impact on your mental health as possible. 

Learning about addiction, the early signs of it, and how it can impact your life or the life of your child is essential. The next important step is knowing what help you need and when to look for it. Finally, surrounding yourself with people who support you is irreplaceable.

When needed, look for professional support as well. You do not need to be alone or feel alone in this difficult task of co parenting with a drug addict.

Experience Transformative Recovery at We Level Up Treatment Centers.

See our authentic success stories. Get inspired. Get the help you deserve.

We Level Up Treatment Centers for Drug Alcohol Rehab Detox Behavioral Mental Health Dual Diagnosis TherapyWe Level Up Treatment Centers for Drug Alcohol Rehab Detox Behavioral Mental Health Dual Diagnosis TherapyWe Level Up Treatment Centers for Drug Alcohol Rehab Detox Behavioral Mental Health Dual Diagnosis Therapy

Hotline (844) 597-1011
Voluntarily testimonials from the We Level Up Treatment Center network vary. Not intended as a guaranteed treatment or outcome as each person's journey is unique.

Start a New Life

Begin with a free call to an addiction & behavioral health treatment advisor. Learn more about our dual-diagnosis programs. The We Level Up Treatment Center Network delivers recovery programs that vary by each treatment facility. Call to learn more.

  • Personalized Care
  • Caring Accountable Staff
  • World-class Amenities
  • Licensed & Accredited
  • Renowned w/ 100s 5-Star Reviews

We’ll Call You


Berge, J., Sundell, K., Öjehagen, A. and Håkansson, A. (2016). Role of parenting styles in adolescent substance use: results from a Swedish longitudinal cohort study. BMJ Open, 6(1), p.e008979. Available at:

National Institute on Drug Abuse (2020). Drug Misuse and Addiction. [online] National Institute on Drug Abuse. Available at: