Children living in homes where there is ongoing parental substance abuse can make life difficult, unpredictable, and downright confusing. Sometimes, they even believe the drug or alcohol abuse is their fault. At such a ripe, tender age, children are not physically and emotionally prepared to inherit these issues. While no one is advocating for that, you are still paying your children a great disservice by not sharing your struggles openly with them. However, the question still remains–” How do I appropriately share my struggles of addiction with my child?” In today’s post, we will address just that. Here is how to talk to a child about parental addiction.
Unbeknownst to many, there are actually a wide array of children’s books available to help children of all ages in wrapping their heads around substance use disorder. Explaining addiction to children is a topic that both parents and grandparents find themselves exploring. Whether your child is so small that you are still reading to them, getting ready to go off to college, or somewhere in between, there are a hodgepodge of developmentally appropriate books to answer their questions about substance use disorder.
Apart from the resourcefulness from books, there are countless other tactics you can employ to talk to a child about parental addiction. We have compiled a list of several recommendations for how to inform kids, without augmenting the negative feelings they might already be dealing with. These include the following:
Most of us would agree that preschool age is too young for parents to inundate their children with information on addiction. However, if you start the conversation early, using only age-appropriate resources, you will ensure that the child gets the correct message, before being exposed to inaccurate messages from their peers.
The conversation you have with a four-year-old is not the conversation you have with a ten-year-old or sixteen-year-old. Always keep it on their level, and continue talking as they grow. Be clear that you are open to discussing addiction and answering their questions.
A small child will not understand how heroin and neuro receptors in the brain work. They will, however, understand candy and the temptation to overindulge, which is something that makes them feel good. Draw connections with things that are easy to digest.
Be honest about the severity of someone’s ongoing or past addictions. Since addiction is a disease, explain why it’s a sad disease and what the consequences of overindulging could do. Talk about why untreated trauma is never good and how many people will benefit from drug and alcohol treatment in New Jersey, but not exactly in those words. Again, the point is to be honest, but present it in a way so that it’s still easy for them to consume.
There are countless resources available for breaking down this very sensitive topic to your children. Support groups for children and families of people with substance use disorders and your loved one’s treatment program, are examples of outlets that provide great tools.
The National Association For Children of Addiction has compiled 7 things that adults can teach their kids for coping with addiction in the family. They are, as follows:
By following these tips, it will be much easier to explain the disease of drug and alcohol addiction to your children. At North Jersey Rehabs, we are happy to include children in family recovery activities, as a means of helping them adjust and learn about what it means to be in recovery from addiction. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs!
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