Explaining Addiction to a Child
Children living in homes where parental substance abuse is present can create many challenges for them. Drug addiction and alcoholism can result in a confusing, disturbing, and painful lifestyle for children. Kids are often either confused about what addiction is and why their parents are struggling and often even blame themselves for their parent’s problems. Dealing with this unpredictable and chaotic lifestyle can cause children to feel insecure, confused, and hurt. If you’re a parent in addiction recovery and are struggling to talk to your kids about your disorder, our Clearbrook rehab in Massachusetts is sharing some tips on explaining addiction to a child that can help.
Tips for Explaining Addiction to Kids
Explaining addiction to youth can be challenging. While you want to be honest, you also don’t want to share something that’s too graphic or strong. As a parent, you may also fear your child’s judgment and pain. These are all understandable reasons to be hesitant to approach your kids about your struggles with drugs or alcohol; however, avoiding the subject doesn’t help either. You never want your children to hear of your past from others or to find out on their own without your side of the story. Below are some tips for talking to your kids about addiction that can make the conversation a little smoother.
While you may feel as if preschool is too soon to speak to your child about addiction, starting the conversation at an early age can ensure that they get the correct message. As they grow up and are exposed to different people and resources, they may receive different messages and ideas about addiction. They may develop opinions based on false beliefs and stigma. Talking to kids about addiction early in their lives prevents them from forming an opinion on lies and encourages them to be more understanding of others’ struggles with substance abuse. Conversations at an early age also promote honesty and transparency in your relationship. When they realize how honest you are about something difficult, they may feel more comfortable sharing their struggles with you as well.
Keep it Age-Appropriate
The conversation you have with a five-year-old isn’t the same as the one you’d have with a 16-year-old. When discussing addiction with a child, it’s important to keep the conversation on their level. No matter how mature your child may seem, you don’t want to use terms or phrases that may confuse them. You also don’t want to share anything inappropriate, such as things you did when you were high. While you can say that addiction may have caused you to lie or hurt people you care about, you don’t have to offer details that are too rough for a child’s ears.
Use Examples That They’ll Understand
A young child may not understand drugs and neurotransmitters in the brain, but they can understand sweets and the temptation to overindulge in something that makes them happy or feel good. An older kid can understand how doing certain things to fit in or make new friends can be dangerous. It’s all about making connections they’ll understand while keeping the integrity of the conversation.
Lying gets you nowhere and only creates more problems. While you may feel ashamed of your past behavior or worried that your child may see you differently, they have a right to know the truth. Honesty in any relationship is important and represents respect and love. Wouldn’t you want your child to be honest with you no matter how bad the truth might be? No matter how old your child is, encourage honesty in your relationship by being transparent about your struggles with drugs or alcohol.
Let’s face it. It takes a special kind of skill to teach kids and bring things down to their level. If you’re worried about confusing your child, there are various resources available that can help you explain substance abuse to them.
Some books for children about addiction include:
- The Bad Dragon by Michael Gordon
- Critters Cry Too: Explaining Addiction to Children by Anthony Curcio
- Stoney the Pony’s Most Inspiring Year: Teaching Children About Addiction through Metaphor by Linda Myers
Make Your Sobriety Clear
During your conversation with your child, they may ask whether you still struggle with this problem. Be clear about your sobriety and your decision to abstain from drugs and alcohol. Reassure them why you’re different now and why you made the decision to get sober. Make sure they understand that you’re in a different place and remind them that they’re one of the main reasons for your sobriety.
If you’re currently battling drug addiction or alcoholism, we can help. Clearbrook Treatment Centers Massachusetts offers various addiction programs that include treatment for substances like alcohol, prescription drugs, cocaine, heroin, and more. Let us help you get your life back.
Using the 7 C’s
The National Association for Children of Addiction (NACOA) recommends seven things that adults can use when explaining addiction to children, otherwise known as the 7 C’s. They include:2
- Cause: The child didn’t cause the addiction
- Cure: The child can’t cure the problem
- Control: The child is not in control of the situation
- Care: The child can care for themselves in a few ways:
- Communicating their feelings
- Making healthy Choices
- Celebrating themselves
Ultimately, when explaining addiction to a child, they should understand that it’s not their fault, that they can ask questions, and that it’s okay to have mixed feelings about the situation. Not only does complete honesty about this part of your life promote respect in your relationship, but it also keeps you accountable for your sobriety.
At Clearbrook Massachusetts, we encourage children to be part of the recovery process. We also offer a rehab program for pregnant women so they can change their child’s futures for the better. Contact us today at 570-536-9621 to learn more about our addiction services.
- NACOA – The Seven C’s