Addiction and the Family: Steps for Talking to Children About Addiction
Show the child that you have a plan in placeWhen you’re talking to a child about a parent’s addiction, it’s best if you can explain the concrete steps that the parent is going to take to recover. If the addicted parent is going to rehab, explain to the child what kind of treatment their parent is going to receive. Keep the conversation child-appropriate, but be honest.
Be prepared to answer the child’s questionsChildren tend to be inquisitive, and they’ll likely ask a lot of questions to try to make sense of their parent’s addiction and the rehabilitation process. Educate yourself about addiction so that you can give the child well-informed answers.
Emphasize that addiction is not the child’s faultSince many children feel that they are in some way to blame for their parent’s addiction, it is important to reassure them that it is not their fault. Emphasize that addiction is a disease caused by genetic, environmental, and personal history factors and that their parent is seeking treatment for that disease, just as they would any other medical condition.
Make sure the child has a support networkIt may be difficult for the child to talk to their mom or dad when one or both is recovering from an addiction, so make sure that the child has other outlets, such as a school counselor, a family therapist, a religious leader, or a support group. There are a number of support groups that specifically focus on addiction and the family members affected by it, such as Al-Anon, Alateen, and Children of Alcoholics.
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