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How Love, Leverage and Connection Will Help Your Struggling Child

Guestpert : Andrea Arlington Category : Addiction and Recovery Tags : Parenting, Addiction, Recovery, Substance Use Disorder, SUD, Mental Health, Family

Andrea Arlington is a Certified International Coach Federation Life Coach specializing in Family Recovery from Addiction and Substance Use Disorder. She is the founder of Families United for Recovery, which teaches parents and family members science based, compassionate tools and strategies to become their addicted loved ones, best chance for choosing treatment and/or sustaining recovery.


The quality of connection between parent and child is critical in preventing SUD and risky behavior and also helping motivate them to choose healthy behavior and even recovery when suffering from SUD. From the Nov.6th, 2009 interview, with Josh McDowell on, “Power of Prayer”: Clint Yeatts writes: "Parents first of all need to know one thing. Truth without relationships lead to rejection, rules without relationships lead to rebellion, discipline without relationship leads to bitterness, anger and resentment. It’s the relationship stupid, it’s the relationship. … If we don't build loving, caring, intimate relationships with our children it doesn't matter what we teach them or how much we pray for them, they'll go to the wayside… You can pray all you want but if you don't build a relationship with them, forget it. They'll walk away."

Studies show that punitive approaches to parenting lead to shame, self-loathing, negative self-talk, and ultimately seeking strategies not to feel these traumatic feelings. These strategies can be substance use disorders, self-harm, criminal behavior to name a few. Harsh language, eye contact, tones and volume of voice along with inconsistent rules and consequences, leads children to seek peer connection and self-medicating with substances and unhealthy behavior. In contrast, studies also show that parenting with the intention of deepening connection, ie: using every opportunity to have eye contact, a touch, hug, expression of gratitude, acknowledgement of accomplishment, to say I love you often, to say I respect your decision/action … contributes to healthy connection, is meaningful and transformational to our children, our own wellbeing and our relationship with them. In their book, ‘Hold on to Your Kids’, by Gabor Mate’ MD and Gordon Nuefeld Ph. D. “if we have a twinkle in our eyes and some warmth in our voice, we invite connection that most children won’t turn down…Hugs allow our children something to hold on to during times that they are not with us.”

Using leverage is one of our greatest tools to help motivate our kids to reduce use and or choose to enter recovery. Leverage can be anything our child wants or needs to be comfortable in life such as a cell phone, a car, car insurance, money for education, a roof over their head, groceries etc. An example of using the cell phone as leverage would be, "Honey, I'd love to help you pay for your cell phone, but I know you are using it to get your drugs and if I were to pay your bill, it would mean I was contributing to your SUD. That would be negligent of me a s your parent. Let me know when you are ready to get help and I will revisit the idea of paying your bill." Using the car as an example, "Honey I know you're afraid of having your car repossessed and I'd love to help you avoid that, but I know you are using it when your under the influence and/or to get your drugs. Therefore, I won't help you because I couldn't live with myself if you were ever injured or hurt someone else while you were driving and using. Let me know when your ready to get help and I will revisit helping you avoid losing your car."

The LLC (Love, Leverage and Connection) Method of Family Recovery, teaches parents to listen deeply to their children, use reflective listening. I teaches parents to ask open ended questions to invoke their child’s inner wisdom, acknowledge their healthy behaviors, encourage their current interests, self-care, health, education etc. Parents are encouraged to attend their children's activities, to create family activities, daily meals together, limited digital use and television all help to create connection. Additionally, creating a calm home environment with tv off, candles lit and soft music can help sooth stress and anxiety, improve attitude, conversation and a sense of well-being. And Finally to use Leverage as mentioned above. These approaches reduce shame and create a trusting, healthy connection. This may sound like an oxymoron and certainly is not what’s widely practiced in some family recovery programs, but if connection is the cure for SUD, then letting go and letting them hit bottom is not going to work and can even be deadly with today’s drugs.

Studies show creating connection, being gentle and firm, in combination with using leverage greatly reduces SUD and risky behavior and can help motivate loved ones toward choosing to reduce substance use and/or enter recovery. The key is to get connected! Choose to be respectful, kind, truthful and loving, and no matter if they’re using or not, or even if they just crashed the car, (which happened more than once with my girls). Learn to use leverage and rational consequences for behavior when needed. Being empathetic, learning about SUD’s, knowing they are struggling with underlying issues that to them cause them to want to use strategies that may not be good for them. Love, Leverage and Connection helps us, help them.

MEDIA : The Doctors, with Andrea Arlington, "How Mom Can Heal While Heroin User Daughter Is In Recovery"

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