A Conversation That Needs to Happen: How to Talk to Your Children About Your Addiction

Coming to terms with the consequences that your addiction has on the life of your children is one of the most difficult parts about recovery.

When you talk to your child about your problem with drugs and alcohol, you need to realize that they likely already know that something isn't quite right with mom or dad. 

This means that you can't -- and shouldn't -- try to lie or avoid having what will undoubtedly be a tough and emotional conversation. 

But how should you tackle this? 

Read on to find out. 

Understand the Impact on Children of Addicts

Children of alcoholics or drug addicts are greatly affected by the actions and behaviors of their parents -- even if your addiction (or a legal consequence) has separated you from them. 

First, know that children of addicts are two times more likely to battle their own addictions in the future, due to both scientific and social factors.

Having an honest conversation about the consequences of your addiction -- and owning up to how it hurt them -- can prevent your child from following a path similar to your own. 

Children of drug addicts and alcoholics may deal with emotional issues, problems in school, be at a higher risk for abuse later in life, and deal with the consequences of trauma and neglect

While your feelings of extreme guilt and even self-hatred for what your addiction has done to your children are normal, you can right the ship by being as open and honest as your child's age and level of understanding allows.

Tips for Talking It Out

An intervention may have given children the opportunity to express their feelings to you.

But whether or not you have one, give them the chance to say things they still need to. Allow them to ask questions, keeping in mind that, depending on their age, they may not understand what drugs and alcohol cause people to do. 

Don't be afraid to talk about the consequences it had on your life. 

Of course, keep the conversation age-appropriate, but honesty is important here, too. Explain that you are sick and that you needed to get help to get better.

Make sure they know that your addiction wasn't their fault and that one of the reasons why you want to get help is so that you can go back to doing fun things with them again like you used to. 

You can ask them leading questions to start a conversation like, "Have you noticed that Mommy sometimes has trouble speaking clearly or falls down?"

This allows a child to tell you and anyone else in the room about how the addiction makes them feel. 

Don't Let Your Addiction Further Harm Your Children

Talking to your children about your addiction -- and ensuring they don't follow in your footsteps -- is an incredibly challenging and brave thing to do. 

So is getting help.  

If you're the child or spouse of an addict, read this post on how to encourage them to get help. 

When you're ready to seek treatment and get your family back together, reach out to us to learn more about how we can help you make it happen.