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It’s hard to tell a child that one of their parents needs to go to rehab. It’s hard to talk to them about addiction at all. But these conversations are necessary, no matter how difficult it is. It is for the good of your children.

Addiction isn’t usually discussed in most homes. But this can lead to a lot of problems in the long run because kids won’t be able to cope with these new ideas if they weren’t exposed to it before. As a parent, who better to provide this information than you?

You need to let them understand the consequences of addiction—and there’s a proper way to have this conversation with them. And that’s what we are going to discuss today.

Why You Need to Talk to Your Children about It

How to Explain Drug Addiction to Your ChildrenDid you know that more than 28 million Americans are children of alcoholics? These kids can grow up facing problems that other kids don’t have to deal with. This makes them four times more likely to get addicted in the future. These children are also generally more emotional, and/or struggle in school.

Children in these situations are also at greater risk of abuse and neglect, since their parents are likely concentrating on managing or living with addiction. There’s also a chance that they’ll witness domestic violence.

It is important to keep the child informed about why their environment is always so unpredictable or even chaotic. They need to understand the importance of self-control and responsibility, so they don’t fall into the same traps in the future.

You should let them know that the drug problem is not their fault—some kids do feel this way, especially since their emotions are mixed up by the things happening around them.

How to Explain Drug Addiction to Your Children

The first thing you need to do is get educated. Learn everything you need to know about addiction and why it’s considered a disease. Know all about its effects, its dangers, and how addicted individuals can get better. The only way you’ll be able to explain it to anyone else is if you know what you’re talking about. Try to find an answer for every possible question your child might have.

Now it’s all a matter of tuning the message to make it appropriate as well as understandable for children.

You need to time this conversation right. It’s best when you can have it when there are no distractions around. Try to talk to your child when the situation is calm. It’s ideal to bring it up when the addicted parent is about to receive treatment, or at least there’s a plan to do so soon.

Explain to them that there’s a problem, and that you are about to take steps in order to improve the situation. Tell them about what will change: for example, if one parent will go to rehab, or if there are plans of separating. Have this conversation with them as often as necessary, to make them comfortable enough to speak up about it. You need to have an ongoing dialogue.

Keep the language age-appropriate. The level of detail you provide may depend on their age and maturity. Break it to them as simply and as directly as possible—and always finish with a message of hope.

Tell them the truth, as much as possible. Although you’ll be keeping the conversation age-appropriate, you still have to be honest with them. This helps build trust, so they will believe you when you say everything’s going to be okay—which is your goal, anyway. Just tell them the truth and explain to them how addiction is a disease similar to diabetes or heart disease. Their parent requires treatment in order to feel better.

Doing all this will help you and your child acknowledge the impact of drug abuse. There’s no point in denying it, especially when all the evidence is there. It may even help you release your feelings of shame and put things in perspective.

Encourage them to share their thoughts on the matter. Let them know there is nothing to be afraid of.

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The Seven C’s of Addiction

If you are having trouble speaking to them about addiction, try sticking with the Seven C’s of Addiction, as defined by the National Association for Children of Alcoholics:

I didn’t Cause it.

I can’t Cure it.

I can’t Control it.

I can Care for myself

By Communicating my feelings,

Making healthy Choices, and

By Celebrating myself.

You can then elaborate from this point on. At least, you can use this as your guide when driving the important points home.

Addiction is a tough topic, but you must tell your children about it, especially because they are directly affected by it. This will make things easier when the addicted parent finally receives the treatment they require.

Look for an addiction treatment center near you today, and get started on the path towards sobriety!

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