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How To Explain A Parent’s Drug Addiction To The Kids

23rd Aug 2017

Addiction is a very real issue in today’s society.  Nearly 30 million Americans were born into an alcoholic home, yet the issue is still a faux paux for parents.  Children growing up in the home of an addict are presented with situations some of us could only imagine.  Kids deserve to be better equipped to handle what may lie ahead.  

Depending on the age of the child, the lines of age-appropriate disclosure are not always easy to grasp.  Addiction is hard enough on its own.  Explaining it to the children may be the most formidable challenge yet.  Here are a few tips for talking to kids about a parent’s struggle with drug or alcohol addiction.

Self-blame is the most common feeling in children of addicts

Adults have a terrible way of throwing out subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) assignments of blame.  For example, dad is an alcoholic.  He said one night that he drinks because he is so stressed.  A few days later, he proceeds to tell his kids that they really stress him out.  

Kids pay attention to these things, and they will immediately place the blame on themselves.  The best first step to take when talking to your kids about their parent’s addiction is to release them of blame.  Remind them of the seven C’s:

  1. You did not cause it.
  2. You cannot cure it.
  3. You cannot control it.
  4. You should care for yourself.
  5. Communicate your feelings.
  6. Make healthy choices.
  7. Celebrate your life.  

The age of the child should determine that depth of the conversation

An obvious consideration that should be make prior to a conversation about parental addiction with a child should be age.  Here are a few age appropriate communication tips.

Younger than 10:  Younger kids deserve to better understand the reasons behind their chaotic lifestyle.  It may help to explain addiction to them through a relatable story.  

Small children understand uncontrollable desires more than you think.  Relate addition to their undying urge to play with a toy that Mommy has told them they can no longer touch.  

Tweens:  For kids ages 10-12, provide details only when prompted.  Do not use the conversation to make an anti-drug lecture for the kid.  Kids will turn off their listening ears, and quickly shut down to the conversation if they feel accosted with adult rhetoric.

Teenagers:  Teenagers do not respect dishonesty or glazed truths.  Be forthright and honest with your teens, or they will see right through the rouse.

Acknowledge the impact a parent’s addiction has on life

During the conversation, it is important to openly acknowledge the impact addiction has had on the child’s life thus far.  Brushing aside the damage that has been done will only pave the way for new scars to be created.  Stop the cycle, and acknowledge the disparity of the situation.  

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