As a parent, your primary goal in life is to keep your children safe and provide a stable, nurturing environment for them to grow up in. That is why it is particularly troubling when you find yourself caught in the grip of alcoholism or substance abuse.
You want to keep your kids as far away from the situation as possible, but at the same time, you know that you need treatment and it’s not fair to keep the kids in the dark about what is happening. Here are some tips for explaining parent addiction to a child that should make the situation easier for everyone.
Wait Until Everything is Calm and Settled Before Starting the Conversation
The last thing you want to do is take an already stressful situation and make it even more stressful. Trying to explain your addiction and treatment options to your children when everything isn’t calm and settled in their lives could distort the message and bring out many of the negative elements you are hoping to avoid.
That being said, there will never be the “perfect” time to have this conversation with them. Putting it off and putting it off while waiting for that magical opportunity when everything perfect will only result in not telling them at all and postponing your treatment.
Make Sure the Message is Age Appropriate
There’s no question that trying to explain parent addiction to a child requires different approaches depending on the ages of the kids in question. Follow these guidelines to keep the conversation appropriate for each age and stage:
- Younger than 10: It’s important not to over-complicate the message to young children. For kids that are older than five, you may be able to relate the feeling of wanting something badly even though they know they shouldn’t have it, to explain addiction. For kids younger than five, just letting them know that Mom or Dad is ill and needs some time to get better should suffice. Of course, reassure them and let them know that you will indeed get better.
- 10-12 Years Old: The tween years are some of the most challenging for kids and parents, and relaying your need for treatment must speak to their needs and age level. This is not a good time to lecture them about what can happen if they want to drink alcohol or try drugs. Stay with the facts of the situation and your addiction, and be honest, which will give them a sense that you trust them with the information.
- Teenagers: Straight up honesty and transparency are a must when telling teenagers or young adults about the situation. They can see right through any attempts at deception and will check out of the conversation quickly if they feel you aren’t forthright.
Honesty is the Best Policy when discussing Addiction with Children
The overriding theme when it comes to explaining parent addiction to a child is honesty. It’s crucial that you:
- Be prepared to answer any and all questions openly
- Reinforce the message that it isn’t their fault
- Revisit the conversation as often as necessary
- Keep the 7 C’s of addiction in mind during the entire process, so that the child has a healthy view of the situation.
The 7 C’s
- I didn’t Cause it.
- I can’t Cure it.
- I can’t Control it.
- I can Care for myself,
- By Communicating my feelings,
- Making healthy Choices,
- By Celebrating myself.
During this critical time, it’s also important to let your kids know that they will have an adult family member as a point of contact during your rehab stay. This can be the other parent, an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or anyone you trust to keep them updated on a regular basis.
Finding yourself in a situation where you are addicted to drugs or alcohol doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. If anything, you should be congratulated for knowing you need help and for making the decision to seek treatment and include your kids on your journey to wellness.
When you are ready to take the next step, contact one of our Admission Center Consultants 24 hours a day for an initial consultation.