Talking about drugs and alcohol with your children can be difficult on its own. It can be even more difficult to talk about when you’re speaking about your own recovery journey. On one hand, you want to tell your child the truth and make sure they know that you’re not holding anything back from them. On the other hand, you don’t want them to look at you differently or to be scared or upset.
If you are a parent who has gone or is preparing to go through treatment for substance use, you have nothing to be ashamed of. If anything, you should be proud because you are taking the steps that you need to take to be the best version of yourself possible for your children. This is the version of yourself that they deserve.
Letting Younger Kids Know That You’re Going to Treatment
If your children are still quite young, it might not be necessary to get into the details of substance misuse and recovery. However, if you are going to be going away to an inpatient program for treatment, chances are that you will be gone long enough for them to start wondering where you are and when and if you are coming back. If this is your case, you can still tell your children the gist of what is going on without causing them to be alarmed. Be sure to use language that they will understand and speak as calmly as possible. Try to avoid becoming overly emotional.
When you’re ready for this conversation, choose a place where the child is going to feel safe and calm. Limit distractions by turning off the television and other devices so that the child will pay attention to what you’re telling them. You can start by saying that you are going to be gone for a little while because you’re going to get some help to become the best mom you can be. Assure your child that they have not done anything wrong and that you are not going away because you don’t love them.
You might want to avoid giving a specific timeline as to when they can expect you to return. Children often hyperfocus on time, and looking out into the future can be confusing and overwhelming for them. Instead, assure them that you will be coming home when you are done getting help. You can also give them something to look forward to by letting them know that you will still be able to communicate through things like letters, phone calls, FaceTime, and drawings.
Talking to Older Children About Your Recovery Journey
There may come a time in the future when you feel as if your children are old enough for you to talk to them about your past substance use. There are a lot of factors to consider when preparing for this conversation. Some factors include if the child was around when you were in active substance use, if they are old enough to remember this going on, and if they were personally affected by your substance use.
If your child is aware that substance misuse was going on and was personally affected, start by apologizing to them for how your actions may have made them feel. Let them know that you have since put in the work to better yourself and are going to continue to put in the work moving forward. If you feel comfortable, you can tell them what specifically you’re doing to protect your sobriety, such as attending therapy or going to support group meetings. Letting them know these things can help to show them how seriously you are taking your recovery. This can also help them to slowly feel comfortable trusting you again.
If your child is older, they might have specific questions about things you did while you were still engaging in use. They might also have questions about what you experienced during treatment and even how you came to begin engaging in substance use in the first place. Try to answer these things as honestly as possible. The better able they are to understand the situation, the less fear and uncertainty they will have to grapple with.
Let Them Express Their Feelings
Once you are done sharing your experience, encourage your child to open up and share what they are thinking or feeling. When you both share your feelings openly, it can help to ensure that you’re on the same page. It can also help you to be more aware of what you need to do to help support your child and repair their trust as you move forward. An honest conversation can make all the difference when it comes to beginning the healing process.
Talking to your kids about your past substance use and recovery journey can be a delicate and challenging process. However, it is important that you let your children know what is going on and that it isn’t their fault. Most importantly, it’s crucial your children understand that they have done nothing wrong. If you are a mother who is currently struggling with substance misuse, there is help available to get you back on track. Getting treatment is the best thing that you can do for yourself and for your family. Don’t wait; call The Ho Tai Way today at (714) 581-3974. A member of our team will be happy to answer any questions you may have about our services.