For a parent, addiction and recovery bring additional challenges starting with how to talk to your kids about what is happening and how they feel in order to help them cope. Here are a few important points to consider when you’re ready to begin the process.
Talking to your kids about your addiction and recovery is first and foremost about listening to them and answering their questions. The children can tell something is going on so it’s best to tackle the issue rather than trying to cover it up despite the difficulty of the conversation.
Even young children need to know about addiction or recovery in the family via age appropriate language and topic identification. If your child or teen asks you questions about addiction, answer them honestly. In order to avoid overloading them with too much information, try to stick to answering their questions. The goal is to make the recovery process an active and open part of home discussions, so it becomes natural.
It’s important to keep your sense of guilt in check before engaging in these conversations with your kids. Emotional outbursts such as crying will only do more damage and get in the way of their understanding.
With younger children especially, it can help to compare the addiction and recovery process to someone living with a lifelong chronic illness that can affect a person’s mood, sleeping habits, and doctor visits. Though recovery from addiction is not exactly the same, the comparison gives them a baseline point of reference in order to comprehend what is happening with their parent.
Just as you need a support system, so too do your children. It is important to provide them with an appropriate person that they can discuss their feelings and how the addiction and recovery is affecting them. This objective outsider should be someone with the proper psychological training to be able to understand the language and atmosphere of recovery. Ultimately, they should be capable of providing the necessary encouragement while actively listening.
As a parent, there seems to be an endless number of tough topics to broach with them. Your own addiction and recovery are likely to be among the toughest, but the wellbeing of those you love the most is at stake. Although you will be struggling with guilt about your addiction where your kids are concerned, it’s important to remember that every day that you are taking care of yourself creates a stronger environment for them and you.