Proposing a conversation upon your children about another’s substance addiction is never easy. Whether the addict is a parent, sibling, or other close relatives, a child’s comprehension on the subject remains vague. Therefore, the adult intending to initiate such a conversation is going to have to explain the situation properly and efficiently enough for a child’s understanding.
Statistics show that more than 28 million children have at least one alcoholic parent. These children have been shown to grow up with emotional, behavioral, and academic problems. This is due to the fact that these children grow up facing issues the average child doesn’t have to handle. With addiction’s arbitrary inclinations, substance-abusing parents are more likely to threaten their children to abuse, neglect, and the witness of domestic violence.
Over time, these effects play their role, and children of addicted parents end up four times as likely to become drug addicts themselves. Depending on their environment, there’s the strong chance they won’t understand a life outside of their drug infested home. However, there are steps that can be taken to avoid this. One of the most important being the proper conversation.
To whoever decides to take this task upon themselves, you should be aware of a child’s developmental stages in coordination to living within an addict’s home. For example, if the addicted parent(s) never gave their children proper discipline, there’s the impregnable possibility that they will grow up with a shortfall in self-discipline and an understanding of their responsibility.
Emotions within a child as such can be confusingly sporadic. Often, the case of resentment becomes an issue. Especially as a child enters their adolescent years. With these emotions in mind, the conversation about addiction can get tricky. What you are about to undertake is the explanation of addiction’s destruction to a young, fragile mind that has already witnessed much of the horror. We should attempt to put that horror into perspective and a clear understanding for the child’s sake.
Listed below are different factors to keep in mind when preparing for the conversation. Obviously, everyone’s situation is different and no two conversations will be alike. But these factors have remained consistent in terms of how to handle a child born into an addicted family.
- Cue Yourself Properly
There’s a time and a place for this conversation. Preferably, within a private setting and following a pinnacle moment of the addict’s abuse. The talk should be one without distractions and remain in a relaxed manner.
If there’s a plan set forth to help the addict, use the opportunity as a way to speak with the child. Bringing up that a solution is set in place is a reassuring factor to the overall discussion. If any major changes are to be expected within the child’s life, to shy away from bringing them up. Be sure to always let the child speak if they desire to and let him/her learn to open up to such a dilemma.
- Remember the Child’s Age
The maturity of the child has much to do with the way you’ll speak of the matter to them. They may be too young for big language or too old for skimpy details. Be upfront and speak the truth, but keep in mind two important aspects.
1. The amount of information a child can retain truly depends on their age and understanding.
2. The details of the situation may (or may not) be inappropriate for certain periods of time. For example, if the child’s parents have recently overdosed on a substance and the child has yet to enter preteen years, you’ll want to go about the situation in an illustrative, yet, forgiving manner.
Remember to always end the conversation with a sense of hope. No matter how old a person is, hope can be a leading factor in how someone handles with the emotions of an addicted parent.
- Educate Yourself
If you are fairly unaware of how addiction works outside of the obvious traumas, it’s vital you teach yourself about the situation. The internet offers research on any regard to the subject. A look through Stonewall Institute’s blog will even give you much information on a variety of topics.
More often than not, a child will have many questions upon addiction. It shouldn’t be underestimated that they’ll probably believe whatever the adult has to say. Without proper answers, you’ll find yourself misleading. If you truly don’t have an answer, there’s no reason not to look one up together.
- Remain Honest
Never let yourself mock-up an explanation or work around certain matters that may be sensitive towards the child. Lying is another way of underestimating a child’s intelligence. Though they may believe a lie or two, it’s unfair to place them in such a position. Though it has been said many times, honesty can go a long way.
- Liberate Humiliation and Create Perspective
There are many instances where children will blame themselves for their parent’s downfalls. It’s important a child realizes it isn’t their fault. With this, an addict’s behavior and intentions have more of a possibility of coming into perspective.
Through this perspective, a child holds the potential of realizing that they are facing troubles on their own. And that these struggles are not their faults. It’s key to make sure they realize they are not alone in this struggle. More often than not, the person attempting to give this conversation has, likewise, been through much due to another person’s selfish decision.
This can be an enlightening moment to bring up what’s called “The Seven C’s”. The National Association for Children of Alcoholics” have created this list as a way for children to better understand their situation.
1. I didn’t CAUSE it.
2. I can’t CURE it.
3. I can’t CONTROL it.
4. I can take CARE of myself.
5. By COMMUNICATING my feelings,
6. Making healthy CHOICES, and
7. By CELEBRATING myself.
- Remain Open to the Child’s Words
Children who are put in such a position may feel disconnected from many around them. If so, you should attempt to understand this disconnection and give them time to open up to you. The emotions they must combat are strong and patience is a vital factor in helping their comprehension.
- Look for Other Support
Sometimes we can’t give a child everything they need. No matter how hard we try, there are areas of understanding beyond our own comprehension. And professional help becomes a possibility. Whether it be a counselor, teacher, therapist, or religious leader, a child may find their comfort in places outside of you.
If you or anyone you know is looking for a treatment plan or you would like more information on how to properly talk to children about addiction, please, give us a call at 602-535-6468 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.