Tips on How To Talk To Your Child About Your Addiction

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’  – Muhammad Ali

Most experts agree that breaking the cycle of addiction starts with parents talking to their children about it. The National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA) states that “1 in 4 children live in a family affected by parental addiction.” With these statistics, it’s easy to see that you are not the only one dealing with this issue, and you are not alone. The biggest question most parents have about discussing their addiction with their child is, “What do I say?” When explaining such a difficult topic, it’s essential to take the child’s age into account. However, being honest and open with them is the key to setting the groundwork for keeping substance use out of their future. So how do you begin the process? Here are some tips to consider when discussing addiction with your child.

How to start

When you are ready to discuss addiction with your child, make sure there are no distractions. During your conversation, make sure to give them space to digest everything and let them know that whatever reaction they have, it’s okay and totally normal. If your relationship with your child is strained, have a third party, such as a substance use counselor, involved. 

Make sure the conversation is age-appropriate

For younger children, you may want to compare your addiction to an illness. Addiction is a disease and explaining it in terms of a part of you that is sick or “does not work the same as others,” will not only make it easier for younger children to understand the concept but will also help them realize they can’t fix it. At this age, it’s also essential to make sure your child feels safe to express how they feel, especially about any fears or concerns they have. The older the child, the more in-depth you can be about your addiction. However, it’s important to remember this is not a time to lecture about the dangers of drugs and alcohol use. Teens will tune this kind of conversation completely out – and off. 

Honesty is always the best policy

Parents tend to feel shame and guilt about their substance use disorder, even when in the process of recovery. However, being honest and direct is the best way to talk to your child about addiction – even if it’s painful. This transparency will allow them to be honest with you and know they have a safe space to express their feelings. Being honest also helps kids navigate through the truth and pain of addiction – teaching them how to move through painful experiences in the future and not suppress them. These conversations will ultimately help you, as the parent, begin to let go of any shame surrounding addiction.

When explaining your addiction, The National Association for Children of Alcoholics encourages that children know the seven C’s of addiction in order to help them handle all of the circumstances surrounding substance use and the recovery process:

The seven C’s help children understand addiction is not their fault, they can’t cure it, and how vital communication is in the process.

Educate them on how addiction is a disease

The most important thing children need to know is that addiction is not their fault. To drive this point home with your child, educating them about how addiction is a disease and how it changes the brain can be effective. This explanation helps your child understand that you did not choose to become addicted to alcohol or drugs. A great resource for this, especially for teens, can be found in the NIDA for Teen’s website section. Browsing through this information with your kids will help them understand what is physically happening to you during the process of addiction.

Continue an open dialogue and reinforce that they are not alone

Providing an open dialogue with your child not only makes it easy for you to communicate with them, but it makes it easy for your child to speak honestly with you. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “research suggests that one of the

most important factors in healthy child development is a strong, open relationship with a parent.” Other ways you can help your child understand addiction and that they are not alone, is to hear other stories from kids with parents who are in active addiction or recovery. Organizations such as The National Association for Children of Addiction or Alateen are great initial resources for children living with parental addiction. Connecting your child with other kids their age, organizations, and support groups will not only help them feel less alone but will help them build a support system as they grow older.

Talking with your children about your addiction to drugs or alcohol can benefit both your children and your recovery. The knowledge and honesty you provide about your substance use disorder can:

Treatment and Addiction

Discussing addiction is hard for anyone, but talking about it with your child can seem like a daunting task. However, being honest about your substance use disorder will only strengthen your bond with your child, help them understand the truth of substance use disorders, and further reduce the stigma of addiction. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction or a substance use disorder, get help now. Do not be afraid to take the first step toward a healthy, new, sober lifestyle, contact the recovery experts at Daylight Recovery Services today at 1-833-2DAYLIGHT.