Deciding to go to rehab is a monumental step towards your recovery. What about your children? Whether they be teenagers, toddlers or adults it’s hard to explain where you’re going. How can you explain drug addiction to a child? When should you explain it? At what age should you explain addiction to them? When a parent is addicted, it can be hard to try to skirt around the fact that the addiction has affected the children. There are a few factors when it comes to how to tell your children you’re going to drug rehab.
How do you Explain Drug Addiction to a Child?
Explaining drug addiction to a child can be hard. The conversation depends on the age of the child and the maturity level.
- You have to time the conversation. It would be best to wait until you know that you are leaving for drug treatment. If you time the conversation well it won’t make the child feel as if there’s this looming day where you’re leaving. It’s also best to have this conversation when there is a calm atmosphere. You don’t want to try to have a conversation of this depth while a child is watching tv or in the middle of a chaotic situation.
- Keep the Conversation Age-Appropriate The depth at which you explain drug addiction to a child depends on the age of the child. If your child is younger than 10, it’s best to stick to the basics. Be honest with them and answer any questions that they may have. Explain it to them in terms that they will understand. Compare it to wanting a toy very badly and no matter how much you’re told no, that you still want the toy and would do anything to be able to have that toy. Comparing it to things that they will understand is the easiest way to make that connection.
- If your child is older – Teenagers are aware of what is going on, as far as dysfunction, strange behaviors and chaos that is associated with addiction, you can explain it a little more in-depth to them. Be cautious of the language that you use when talking to your teenager about addiction. Children often know far more than you would assume. As always, keep the conversation as open and honest as possible without going into the nitty-gritty of drug use.
- Adult Children: Your adult children already know about addiction. Having the conversation about addiction with them is harder and easier. Once your children have grown up, it is easier to talk to them about adult topics, but it’s not easy to tell someone you raised that you are struggling with drug addiction. You never want to disappoint your children or hurt them. They may not want to talk to you or be involved in your treatment as they understand what addiction is and have seen what it has done to you. Entering rehab and taking the first steps towards your recovery gives you the chance to mend these relationships with your adult children.
The Impact on Children and the Family Dynamic
Children are much less naïve than we would like to think. The impact that our addiction has on them no matter how far removed they are from it, the impact is still there. When we begin to seek treatment and give recovery an honest chance, it allows us to show children the other side of addiction. If the children are very young, there is a chance that they will never remember a time when you were drunk or high.
As long as you remain sober, you can repair some of the damage done. Children of addicted parents have a higher chance of becoming addicts themselves. Staying sober gives you the opportunity to talk to your children about drinking and drug use. Too many children have had to try to take care of themselves when they have an addicted parent. When you come back from treatment it can take some time for your children to get used to the new family dynamic, it will also be an acclimation for you to learn how to parent sober.
You must establish the needs of your children, what will make them feel safe, was there anything that happened during your active use that could have harmed them? The impact on the families of addicts is more than surface level. If it’s available, some counselors can help children move past these traumatic experiences or learn how to cope in healthy ways. It’s essential that you also seek help for yourself past an in-patient drug rehab. Continuing care for yourself gives you the ability to continue to care for your children. Just as children have to adjust to life with you being sober, you also have to adjust to being in recovery.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a substance use disorder and are ready to seek help, contact us today at (855) 448-3588. GateHouse Treatment also offers a Family Program to help start healing the family earlier in the process in a safe environment. You and your family can recover, we can help.