When you struggle with addiction, substance use disorder (SUD), or even other co-occurring mental illnesses, your family members may suffer too. In some cases, your loved ones suffer from seeing you struggle with unintentional consequences of your life decisions revolving around your addiction.
In many cases, your loved ones suffer from choices you have made that have hurt them. This could be caused by things such as stealing from them to support your habits or putting their lives in danger as a direct result of your addiction. These scenarios can often lead to complex relationships with your children too. It can be difficult for children to understand these situations at any age. The younger they are, the less they may notice how addiction or mental illness affects your life and their own.
However, as they get older and see these effects, they may grow to resent you. Sitting them down and helping them to understand that you are struggling with an illness is an important conversation to have. Still, it is not always an easy conversation to partake in, unfortunately.
When Should You Start the Conversation About Addiction?
It can be challenging to determine when you think your child may be ready to hear the truth about your struggle with addiction. Additionally, there is no designated time or age for this conversation to occur. It can depend on the child, your personality, their personality, and even the individual circumstances surrounding your addiction. All these play a critical role in deciding when you might want to take that step with your child, but you may decide that it is best to have that conversation early on.
You might be questioning how to find the balance between informing your child and wanting to protect their innocence. However, if left unspoken, the chances are that the things they observe will threaten their childhood more than your being upfront with them will.
An important point to consider is that it is beneficial to talk to your children about drug and alcohol use early on in this day and age. Children should be exposed to the topic in a safe and controlled environment than on their own and among their peers where there is a greater chance of dangerous experimentation taking place.
Perhaps your struggle with addiction may be something that runs in your family. For this reason, it may behoove you to help your children understand your struggle and express the importance of being cautious when it comes to substance use disorder. After all, genetics have the ability to make addiction more prevalent. If you have yet to seek help or admit that you are struggling with addiction, think about the repercussions it may cause for your children, their future, and their feelings towards you.
How to Help Your Children Understand Addiction
It is human nature to lack empathy for things you do not fully understand. Children are incredibly observant but cannot always comprehend what they are observing. For instance, a child watching their parents’ behavior amidst a manic or depressive episode will infer something bad based on what they know at that age.
However, a child will mostly assume that the parent is angry or upset with the child or that the child did something severely wrong to cause this behavior. As a parent, you have to sit your child down and explain that the reason you fall into these episodes is due to a chronic illness and has nothing to do with them.
In the case of addiction, children will see the choices you make and how it affects your life, and their own. Addiction can be difficult for even grown adults to understand and empathize with, let alone getting children to understand and empathize fully.
You cannot make them know, especially at a young age, but by keeping the lines of communication open between you, the path to understanding becomes possible. You have to understand your own addiction first, and by being open and honest, you can begin to help your children understand too.
Keeping the Lines of Communication Open
While the conversation surrounding your addiction with your child may be uncomfortable, these types of conversations must sometimes take place. By learning to keep the lines of communication open in all situations, you will develop a stronger relationship overall. You can keep these lines of communication open by creating opportunities to talk by encouraging conversation and questions, answering those questions honestly, and listening to each other.
If you are looking for a recovery program and are trying to figure out the best way to talk about your addiction with your child, reach out to the Lakehouse today. Our family therapy programs can teach you the tools needed to help your family recover too. Do not wait any longer to start your path to recovery and contact us today.
You may need to have many difficult conversations with your children someday. Those conversations might be about trouble at school, family conflicts, or for some it may even include needing to talk about your struggles with addiction, substance use disorder, or other mental illnesses. The most significant way for you to be more comfortable discussing difficult situations like these with your children is by teaching them the importance of empathy and compassion and keeping the lines of communication open with them. Suppose you struggle to navigate the difficult discussions with your children revolving around addiction or other co-occurring mental illnesses. In that case, we encourage you to call us at the Lakehouse Recovery Center today. Combined with our relapse prevention and family therapy programs, we can teach you the necessary tools to navigate these conversations now and in the future. Call us at (877) 762-3707 to start your path to recovery today.