It’s not easy to talk to children about addiction. You may be worried your children will find the subject uncomfortable, or wonder if they will even be able to understand it, depending on their age. However, because a parent’s (or any family member’s) addiction has a direct impact on children, it’s crucial to have this conversation.
But when is the right time? What do you even say? In order to make the discussion informative and helpful, adhere to the following tips when explaining addiction to your child.
Acknowledge His or Her Pain
Your child may have been through tough experiences because of your addiction. Instead of skirting around the hurt you’ve caused your child, validate their pain. Sincerely apologize for how you’ve hurt your child and remind them that your addiction doesn’t impact how much you care.
It may be helpful to address this in a therapy setting as well. Never feel that you have to have these conversations alone, especially if you aren’t sure how to talk about your substance abuse constructively.
Release the Shame
Chances are your child may blame some of your problems on him- or herself. Remind your child that they didn’t cause your addiction at all and that they aren’t responsible for curing you. Take responsibility and make sure your child knows that they didn’t contribute to your substance abuse problem.
The first thing you should do before diving headfirst into a conversation with your child is getting more educated yourself. Although you have lived with your addiction and understand it a great deal, there are probably things you don’t know about addiction. Learning more about the disease will help you answer any questions your kid may have.
Keep it Appropriate
Be mindful of how much detail and what information you provide when talking to your kid about your substance abuse. The information you share largely depends on your child’s age and maturity. The conversation will be different if your kid is five or twelve years old, but it’s important to explain addiction in simple and age-appropriate terms. If you’re still not sure how to keep the conversation age-appropriate, talk to a professional or reach out to someone in your support group. It’s more than likely that someone else has had to have a similar conversation.
Similarly, make sure you are honest no matter how you approach the subject. Refusing to be open about your addiction will only cause misunderstanding and distrust. While you may need to censor some of the conversation, you shouldn’t try to lie about your substance abuse. Explain that addiction is a disease and address its underlying causes. Again, this is also why it’s beneficial to educate yourself on addiction. It may give you insight into how to explain it.
Time it Right
The best time to discuss your addiction with your child is in a calm and distraction-free environment. If you can, talk about it once you have a plan for treatment and recovery in place. Explain what will change, such as you going to rehabilitation or moving out.
End on Hope
One of the most important things to do is finish with a hopeful message. This conversation will probably be hard for your child to process, so it’s crucial to explain to your child that you’re getting the necessary help to get better. Be reassuring and comforting so that he or she knows that all hope is not lost.
It’s hard to navigate a discussion about family and addiction, but by following these techniques, you can do it. If you’re looking for professional help for your addiction, contact Pyramid Healthcare. Or, if you’d like more information on how to talk to your child about the topic of addiction, read this blog post for tips to maintain an open dialogue.
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