How Do I Talk to My Kids About My Addiction?

Choosing to get help handling an addiction makes you a better parent who will be able to respond to your kids’ needs with a clearer mind. Once you get sober, you’ll no longer have to worry about showing up inebriated to a school event or arguing with your adult child about your drug or alcohol misuse. While the benefits of getting sober are clear, it is common to hesitate when it comes to talking about addiction treatment.

When you are wondering how do you talk to your kids about your addiction, you might have several different areas of concern. You might also be struggling with figuring out a way to overcome the stigma that is sometimes associated with addiction such as feeling like your kids might see you as weak or a rule breaker. No matter where your worries are coming from, you can rest assured that there is a way to bring up the topic of addiction along with making sure that your kids know what to expect regarding your treatment.

There are several factors at play that will affect how you talk to your kids. Thinking about these factors can help you to move forward with planning for your discussion.

  • Your kids’ age levels and general understanding of adult concepts
  • Your family’s current experiences with addiction
  • Your plan for child care during your addiction treatment
  • •Your general support system such as other adults who will help

The biggest rule of thumb to follow is that you know your kids. You’ve seen them respond to changes in their life before, and you can use this insight to guide your conversations. While some kids may be fully aware of your addiction, others may not. Parents often do things such as use drugs or alcohol after the kids have gone to bed, which means that this could be a complete surprise. There could also be significant differences in how each one of your kids will respond, which means that you may need to have more than one conversation. For example, your teenager might have higher level questions about what your addiction means to the family, while a toddler may simply want to know who will take care of them while you are away at treatment.

Model the Importance of Sobriety to Your Kids

Once you are ready to plan your conversation, you’ll want to remember to use age-appropriate language. You may also choose not to go into all of the details about why you are deciding to seek help now. Young children often don’t need to hear about things such as your legal or relationship conflicts. Instead, you can focus solely on how you’ve realized that you are using drugs or alcohol in ways that aren’t healthy and that you’ve decided to seek treatment to help you restore your ability to live sober again. Teens and adult kids might put two and two together and ask questions about things that they’ve noticed regarding your drug and alcohol use. With this age group, you still retain control over how much you share, but you might share more regarding your treatment plan if they want to know how to help. Helping your kids adjust to this news is easier when you have a defined plan for what will happen. If you are choosing to go to a residential treatment center and have young kids at home, then it is important to share with them who will be caring for them while you are gone.

You may also let your kids know how you will communicate during your time away. You might write letters, make phone calls or even have older family members visit during your treatment. Giving your kids a date for when you are going and when you will be back may also be helpful for helping them to make sense of what is happening. There’s no way around that this is a tough topic to broach, but it does help to remember that you are setting a strong example for your kids that could help to stop the family cycle of addiction. Sharing that you are struggling with drugs or alcohol lets your kids see that seeking mental health treatment is important. You are also showing your children that it is never too late to make changes that improve your life. As you work through your treatment, your kids get to see a new you emerge that adds more positivity to your family. Do you need help creating a treatment plan to share with your kids? We can help you nail down what you need to say during a family discussion. Give us a call today at 833-497-3812.