Talking to your kids about your drug or alcohol addiction will never be an easy conversation to have, but it’s one that’s vital if you hope to regain trust with your kids and embrace the idea of healthy, open communication within your family. And while that discussion will look different according to everyone’s unique living situations and experiences, there are some loose guidelines you can follow to help your explanation be both compassionate and effective.
5 Tips On How to Talk to Your Kids About Addiction:
1. choose an appropriate time and place about addiction.
Granted, it may never feel like the “perfect” time to discuss one of life’s weightier issues, but try to make sure you can find a long enough time slot and an environment that’s free of distractions. If possible, explain the addiction at the same time that you outline your plan for treatment, whether that looks like a medical detox stay, an intensive outpatient program, ongoing therapy, etc. Like most of us, children and teenagers thrive on knowing what’s next.
2. share the 7 Cs.
To help explain addiction to kids, the National Association for the Children of Alcoholics shares a mnemonic known as the 7 Cs. From the child’s perspective, it states “I didn’t cause it. I can’t control it. I can’t cure it, but I can help take care of myself by communicating my feelings, making healthy choices, and celebrating me.”
3. validate your children’s pain or embarrassment.
Throughout the course of your addiction, you may have unintentionally hurt your children’s feelings. Acknowledge that you realize you failed to put their feelings first, offer a sincere apology, and let them know that you’re taking steps to ensure you can do better in the future.
4. tailor your message to be age-appropriate.
How much information you share will vary depending on each child’s age and level of maturity. For example, you can share significantly more detail with your 18-year-old than you would share with your 4-year-old. Try to keep discussions about addiction as simple as possible, but remember to always be honest about your struggles. Most kids perceive much more than adults think they do, so trying to portray situations in an inauthentic light or failing to acknowledge what they’ve seen will only lead to distrust.
5. end with optimism for the future.
When the conversation draws to a close, do what you can to reassure your children of your feelings for them and how much you care. Re-emphasize that addiction is a disease and that we seek professional help to reclaim both our physical and emotional health.
On that note, if you’re struggling with how to best explain your addiction in a way that kids understand, you can always ask your support group to see how others have handled it. Or seek professional help from a qualified therapist.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about our programs at Choice House, please contact us.