How to Tell Your Children You Are Going to Rehab
More than 28 million Americans are children of alcoholics and addicts, yet addiction isn’t being talked about in most homes. Instead, children grow up facing a lifetime of issues other kids don’t have to manage. Children of alcoholics and addicts tend to have more emotional, behavioral and academic problems than other kids, and are four times more likely to become addicts themselves. They are also at greater risk of abuse and neglect, witnessing domestic violence, and marrying an addict later in life.
Making the decision to do something about your drug or alcohol addiction isn’t an easy one and can seem even more difficult if you have children. But you can’t be 100% there for your child or children until you go to rehab and get on the road to recovery. Here are some suggestions for how to tell your children you are going to rehab:
Educate yourself about the disease of addiction and what rehab is before you tell your children you are going to rehab. This way, you will be prepared to answer any questions your children may have. If you don’t know the answer, work on finding one together.
Pick an ideal moment to have the conversation. Talking about your addiction is best when there are no distractions and the situation is relatively calm. It’s best to have this conversation after you already have a plan in place as to where you are going for rehab. Explain that there’s a problem and you’re taking steps to improve the situation.
Meet them at their level, meaning, keep the conversation age-appropriate. The language you use and the level of detail you provide depend on the age and maturity of your children. Break the issues down as simply and directly as possible, and finish with a message of hope.
Be honest when you tell your children you are going to rehab. Although you’ll need to use different terms depending on the age of the child, you should always be honest about the problem. Children have an innate ability to read when adults are lying. Explain that addiction is a disease caused by a number of things, including genetics, environment and past trauma. It’s just like someone who has diabetes or heart disease – you need to get treatment and make lifestyle changes so that you can get better.
Acknowledge how telling your children you are going to rehab will impact them. Rather than avoid the impact that your addiction has had, validate your children’s experiences. Apologize for the pain you may have caused for your children and ask open-ended questions about how they’ve been feeling.
Do not place blame and release shame. One of the most important things for children to understand is that addiction is not their fault. They didn’t cause you to abuse drugs or alcohol and they cannot cure or control it. Children need help to understand that what you say and do under the influence isn’t really who you are or how you feel. Tell your children you are going to rehab because you want to change all of that and be a better parent.
Be open to discussing what you have just told your children. After being disconnected from themselves and others, it may take practice for the child of an addict to be able to identify and process their emotions. To combat the secretiveness, fear and loneliness addiction brings, encourage them to talk about their feelings without criticism or judgment. If you or a loved one is seeking rehab for substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-888-672-4435. The Orchid Recovery Center can help! Call us today.