How To Talk To Your Children About Addiction

How To Talk To Your Children About Addiction

If you have children, you have a very important job as a parent, whether addiction is involved or not. But, when addiction is involved, your job increases ten-fold. You’ve got a great responsibility to talk to your children about addiction, protect them, and educate them.

Listen to the podcast episode here:

Read below for even more details and tips:

Last week we talked about the importance of daring to dream, of really taking a moment in our lives and creating a vision for our future with or without addiction. 

It is incredibly important that you stop putting energy and effort into your loved one.

Stop trying to get them sober. You can stop trying to prove that they have a problem. Stop spending your energy and trying, trying to prove that they’re lying to you. 

Please stop spending your energy on their addiction.

They know the truth. They know they have a problem, they know they lied, they know there’s an issue and it’s not your job to try and convince them to admit it. You know the truth. They know the truth. That is good enough. 

Now it’s time to move on and it’s time to refocus all of that energy that you have been wasting because let’s be clear, it is wasting.

It is wasted energy. It is time to put that precious, wonderful energy back into yourself. If you want to know how to get happy and healthy, whether they get sober or not, this is it. 

This is the way you stop putting energy into them and you start putting it into yourself.

Now, let’s also talk today about putting energy into our children because we’re not the only ones being affected by this disease. 

You must talk to your children about addiction.

Your children are affected by addiction too.

If you have kids, whether they’re old or young, they have also been affected by your loved one’s addiction. 

So let’s start off with saying that they know something is going on. No matter how young they are, they understand there are problems.

They might not understand that it’s due to the bottle, the drugs or the pills, but they understand on some very deep level that something is going on in your home, and that is not okay. 

Here’s what to avoid when it comes to talking to your children about addiction.

One of  the worst things that we can do for children is not talk about it. The worst thing we can do is bury it under the carpet and avoid the difficult conversation.

If you had your babies, and you chose to have children and bring them into this life and you brought them into this life with a relationship with somebody who is addicted to drugs and alcohol, it is your responsibility and duty to educate your kids about this disease. 

You must educate them. Here’s why.

For two reasons.

Number one: their physical and mental and spiritual safety is at risk if you continue living in this house with addiction. 

And number two: they might have a predisposition to this disease, so start talking about this early. 

Now, there aren’t a lot of resources out there for moms like us who have children with a genetic predisposition. Meaning they have a parent suffering from addiction. 

Find an expert to help them (and you).

So you need to find an expert. You need to go to a child psychologist, try to find the best one in your city or town.

I remember when I was leaving my ex husband, I made sure that I got my kids into a therapist. She told me some of the best advice and I’m going to pass it on to you.

Now, I had called her in the middle of the day because I was absolutely petrified of breaking apart my family. 

I was the one instigating and choosing to leave. I had finally drawn a line in the sand that said no more

I’m not going to raise my three babies in a home where there’s drugs and alcohol.

This is not going well and I can predict the future by looking at the past. 

This disease is progressive.

It gets worse if they do not choose to get sober. And if I had looked at the last 10 years of my life with loving this wonderful man, I could see where this was going and it was not in the direction that I felt comfortable or safe raising babies. 

So I said, I’m leaving, not for me but for them.

And so I brought them to this therapist and I called her in the afternoon and said, “I am feeling so guilty. I am feeling so scared that they are going to blame me. What if I’m ruining their lives by breaking apart this family, by ripping their father away from them. I don’t know how they’re going to react to this. Are they going to hate me? Is this going to affect their happiness?”

And she told me something that I’m going to share with you. She said,

“Michelle, all it takes is one good, sober, loving parent to raise successful, happy children.”

Your children need one strong and sober parent. And that’s you.

She gave me direction on how to talk to my children about addiction, which I share in our programs.

She said, the clients that I get worried about that come into my office are when two parents, both parents are struggling with addiction when both parents need recovery or are in denial about their need to get sober.

Those are the children I worry about. But I do not worry about your children because you’re looking for help for them and you’re the strong, sober, and loving parent. They’re going to be fine. 

They’re going to be good. You’re actually saving them. 

Your children are going to be fine. You’re saving them.

And those words comforted me and carried me throughout my divorce and they still do. I do not regret leaving for one second

In fact, I think it was the best thing that I ever could have done for my kids is to find the courage to live in a separate space that was drug free and alcohol free and was not full of arguing or screaming. 

I saved them. But again, the first step was simply to talk to them about addiction. Always respecting my ex-husband, and just sharing the facts in language they understood.

Now there were many visitations that I had where I was incredibly concerned for their safety. I cover all of the tools, very practical ones in the Stay or Go program.

But I just want to address right now with you, that it is incredibly important to communicate with your children what is going on.

It’s incredibly important to talk to your children about addiction.

Talk to them about what’s going on, because they have questions, even if they’re not asking yet.

You need to name it. You need to say something like your father or your mother is struggling with the disease of addiction and when you see them drinking, it means that they’re sick.

Provide them practical tools.

If you’re not in the house and they noticed that their parent is drinking or acting funny, you need to provide your children with a cell phone. 

I don’t care how young they are, I don’t care how expensive it is. They need a way. Get a landline in your home if you need to, but they need a way to communicate

If things feel unsafe to them, they need a way to communicate and reach out for help to somebody in their life who is sober.

When you get their cell phone, you need to program in their cell phones a list of people that you know you can trust that they can reach out to. You need to call those people, those friends and family members and say, this is what I’m doing. 

I’m providing my child with this cell phone because I need to leave the house. And as you know, their parent is struggling with addiction.

I have taught them to reach out to you in case they are feeling unsafe in their home.

Will you support me?

Can you help me?

Please, can you make a commitment that if you see my son or daughter’s name on your phone come up that you will answer it? 

Start with these tools for your children

  • Purchase a cell phone for your children
  • Create (and talk to) a list of safe people for your children to contact in case they need help
  • Save these safe people as contacts in the phone
  • Educate your children on behaviors and habits to look out for in their father or mother – teach them these are warning signs and they’ll need to call for help

Let them know you need their help because remember, part of healing from this disease is asking your friends and family for help during this season of your life. 

That is a huge necessity and yes, we need to overcome our embarrassment because it means admitting that things are not perfect. 

It might make our loved one mad because we’re revealing their struggles and their secrets, but here’s the truth.

Wouldn’t you rather deal with the wrath and anger of your loved one than have your children suffer? 

The anger, the judgment and the temper tantrum that your loved one is going to give you if you go around asking for help is because they are refusing help. 

If they got the help and took responsibility and accountability for their addiction, you wouldn’t need to do this but they’re continuing to party.

They’re being irresponsible and self-centered, so you have to do this. They’re putting you in this position because you’re responsible. 

You need to fully equip your children.

The first step to fully equip them is simply to talk to your children about addiction.

So that is how you overcome the obstacle. And that is how you justify asking for help. That is why you need to talk to your kids because you need to fully equip them to be able to know what to do.

Now we go again like I said, into much more, much, much, much more tools inside our Stay Or Go program. Particularly when it comes to visitation. 

I hope this has helped you understand and give you some encouragement that you have every single right to openly discuss and talk and equip your kids while living with addiction. I’ll talk to you next week.

How does an alcoholic father affect a child?

The impacts can be great. It all depends on your specific situation, the age of the children, and how far along into addiction their father (or mother) may be. Growing up with an alcoholic will impact a child at every stage of development because of the nature of addiction: chaotic, unpredictable, aggressive, and unsafe.

Should I talk to my kids about addiction?

Yes. YES. Shout it from the rooftops: YES! You’ve got a great responsibility to talk to your children about addiction, protect them, and educate them.

What age do you talk to your kids about addiction?

It all depends on the specific circumstance and how educated you are in how exactly to talk to them. I started talking to my oldest child about it when he was three. Any age can be appropriate with correct direction, proper techniques, and help from a program or professional.

How To Talk To Your Children About Addiction

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.

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