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How To Talk To Your Children About Your Recovery



Your Sobriety Is An Opportunity To Inspire Your Family

It’s taken a while, but you’ve finally gotten to the point where you realize you can’t quit drugs or alcohol on your own. You’re ready to start your recovery by enrolling in a drug rehab center. However, for many parents, telling your children about why you’re going somewhere is difficult, much less explaining their addiction. Children are very perceptive; there’s a good chance they already know you have a problem, even if you’ve tried your best to hide it. Still, revealing that you’re going away for addiction help takes some gentle maneuvering to protect their emotions.

Be Honest and Explain Why You’re Going To Get Addiction Treatment

Keep in mind that 12 percent of children in the United States have a parent who is dependent on or abuses drugs or alcohol. Because of that, your child probably has a friend whose parent has a drug problem. Even still, you shouldn’t assume they know much about it, or necessarily go into gory detail. Explain your issues in a way that they can understand without being too patronizing. For example, you don’t need to go into detail about the things you’ve done while on drugs, but you also shouldn’t make up some excuse about how you need a vacation.

Tell your children that addiction is a disease, and you’re going to go get help for it. It is often best explained as a disease, as a child is likely to best comprehend addiction as being sick and needing to go somewhere to get better. If you have a dual diagnosis, such as depression or bipolar disorder, you may not necessarily have to delve far into that unless they’re older and can understand addiction in a more sophisticated way.

Let Them Know Where They’ll Be Staying And What They’ll Be Doing

There are many different kinds of addiction treatment therapy, and not all of them require you to live outside of your home. However, regardless of the level of commitment, many programs require many hours during the week. This absence can be confusing or stressful for children if not explained well or early enough. They might wonder who will take care of them, or how long you’ll be gone. If the children have another parent or grandparents to look after them, the first question shouldn’t be too hard to answer. However, if you lack immediate family members, you may have to start looking into aunts, uncles, or cousins to care for your kids while you’re away.

Whatever you do, make sure you have all of this planned out before talking to your kids about going to get addiction treatment. After your wellbeing, this will be their primary concern, so it’s important to have an answer. Talking to their guardian about how to make the transition can help avoid the shock of changing surroundings and routines. Having their books, games, and toys with them helps them feel at home even in a relatively unfamiliar environment if they will be staying elsewhere.

Also, even if one parent stays with them in their home, it’s important to make sure routines are somewhat consistent, as a significant change in routine will remind them of your absence in a negative way. Help establish with whoever will look after them some things that will help them while you’re away, and assure the child that your absence won’t be the end of the world, or for long. Many parents find that a new game or toy helps keep their mind off the sudden change, and not associate solely negative emotions with the experience.

Assure Your Children that You Still Love Them

Studies suggest that children with parents who take drugs are much more likely to have depression or anxiety. They also are more likely to begin abusing alcohol or drugs themselves. Make sure that your children don’t feel that you’re abandoning them, or that it is somehow their fault. Present them with a plan to stay in touch if you’re going to residential rehab or let them know that you’ll still be around to help them with their needs if you’re doing outpatient therapy.

At the end of the conversation, they should not be feeling bad about themselves or about your wellbeing – instead, they should feel uplifted and hopeful, and even happy you’re getting the help you need.

Once you let them know about your plans for recovery, they’ll often react with understanding and support. Many parents have been through recovery, and find that addiction treatment helps them to become more dedicated, supportive parents. The change you’re making is one that benefits both you and your children.

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