When a parent grapples with substance use disorder, it has a profound impact on their children, and the reverse is true as well. The fear of how children will react often prevents parents from seeking the professional help they need. However, knowing how to approach the topic with your kids can provide peace of mind and allow you to focus on your recovery during rehab. Here are some compassionate and comprehensive tips to help you prepare your children for this transition.
Initiate an Open Conversation about Addiction
Rather than concealing the reality of your substance use disorder, it’s crucial to have an open and honest conversation with your children. By discussing addiction and mental health openly, you normalize these important topics. If your children are too young to fully grasp the concept, provide them with a basic explanation. Being transparent about your situation can prevent future issues and may even help your children avoid addiction themselves.
Although hiding your addiction might seem like a way to protect your children, they likely already sense that something is amiss. Sharing the truth can provide relief, as your children will learn about your decision to seek professional help. Conversely, keeping them in the dark may lead to problems such as them blaming themselves for your absence. By openly discussing addiction, you can teach your children that addressing problems through open communication is the best approach.
While there’s no need to divulge unnecessary details, sticking to the truth as much as possible can be beneficial for both you and your family. Explain to your children that addiction is a medical condition, similar to other diseases, and that you require professional care to address it, just as one would seek a doctor’s assistance for a physical ailment. Choose a safe, calm environment where you can have a one-on-one conversation with your children when you have ample time.
Emphasize That It’s Not Their Fault
Children of parents with addiction often blame themselves or feel responsible for their parents’ struggles. They may believe they could have done more to help or that they caused the problem. During your absence, children might even think they did something to drive you away. Reassure them that they are not responsible for your addiction. Explain that addiction is a complex disease and that no one should bear the blame. Encourage your children to express their feelings openly, creating a safe space for them to share.
Educate Yourself about Addiction
Before broaching the subject with your children, educate yourself about the nature of drug or alcohol addiction. This knowledge will enable you to answer their questions about the issue and the solution. Understand addiction as a medical illness, and explain why overcoming it alone is not feasible. The more you comprehend about your addiction, the better you can help your children grasp the concept.
Ensure They Know You Will Return
Regardless of your children’s age, it’s important to reassure them that your condition is treatable and that you will be coming back home. If you have a specific return date, mark it on a calendar so they have a visual reminder. Explain that while you may not be able to call every day due to the rules of the treatment center, you will stay in touch as often as possible. Let them understand that rehab is a temporary measure on the path to recovery.
Manage Your Emotions
Before discussing your rehabilitation plans with your children, make sure you are emotionally composed. Seeing you scared, crying, or upset can frighten them and give them the impression that you are going to a dangerous or negative place. It’s normal to experience emotions while addressing your addiction, but do your best to control them for the sake of your children. If you need emotional support, have someone present during the conversation. If you feel overwhelmed, take a break and resume the discussion later. Ensure your children know they can express intense emotions and