How To Explain Addiction To Your Children

Addiction and how it affects the home of the addicted individual can be a very sad situation, especially when the home includes children. The world is a complex place to understand, especially…

explaing addiction to your children maui recovery - Maui Recovery

Addiction and how it affects the home of the addicted individual can be a very sad situation, especially when the home includes children. The world is a complex place to understand, especially as a child. But there are no greater lessons a child can learn from than those firsthand from their own family. Keeping communication open as a family, with age appropriate guidelines, can set for a stronger foundation. Addiction is a disease that wins by sweeping it under the rug, ignoring the damaging signs, and avoiding the much needed family addiction talk. We all can sympathize that whether you are the child’s addicted parent, or the non-addicted parent, there is no easy way to talk to a child about addiction. However, talking about the addiction openly and honestly can help your children find healthier ways to cope with the trauma they most likely are experiencing. While avoiding the conversation until the child themselves asks about their addicted parent may seem like a good idea, this may make the entire situation worse. Potentially leaving your child or children in a state of confusion, or unfortunately thinking their trauma is normal life. Explaining addiction to your children is one of the most crucial steps you can take to help prevent addiction from affecting their adult lives.

Why Explaining Addiction To Children Is Important For Their Future

Children undergo many pivotal changes and mental growth periods up into adulthood, all that play a role in their future life. From personal experiences come coping mechanisms, empathetic learning, emotional learning and balancing, all key to their mental health as independent adults. Hiding or pretending that addiction is not important to understand will not protect them from the pain that the addiction can cause them. When you explain addiction you can help eliminate any false ideas the child may have- such as they are to blame and/or can fix the situation. Especially since these false ideas can potentially lead to harmful and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as codependency in kids, leading up to adulthood. Taking the time to plan explain addiction to your family are great steps to ensure your child doesn’t have to suffer alongside their addicted parent or loved one.

The Best Time For A Family Addiction Talk

The best decision for a family addiction talk is a time of day when the child or children are most relaxed. This could be after playing at the park at one of their favorite spots to have a snack together. Or at home and after dinner, when their belly is happy and their mood is calm. Starting the talk during an argument about the addiction, or when they are upset, angry, or tired will only stress the situation and their understanding of addiction. Choose a comfortable place where the children feel safe and where there is no risk of being overhead or spied on. Keep an open mind as well, welcoming any and all questions that the child may have about addiction and their feelings toward it. While also answering those questions openly and honestly too, creating a solid foundation of trust in sharing.

How To Explain Addiction To Children

Addiction is complex, and finding the words to describe it- let alone to a child experiencing the trauma from it firsthand- can seem even more complex. But, thanks to the experiences of others in the past that have had to walk the same path of explaining addiction to children, there is advice to be heard. An official definition of addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. In addition, people with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences. However, putting that definition into words that your child can understand and relate to is up to you as the parent or loved one. It is advised that when explaining addiction to children, always be truthful. Trust is one of the most crucial elements challenged and broken often with addiction, so being truthful is key.

The Four Crucial Messages Needed For Children To Hear

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) indicates that there are four messages that children with addicted parents need to hear. One, that addiction is a disease. Reminding the child how much the addicted parent loves them is also important in establishing that addiction is not the person, rather a disease that needs treatment. Two, that it is not the child’s fault. Children 10 years old and under still view the world from a me-centered perspective, meaning they are likely to blame themselves as the cause of their parents or loved ones’ addiction. This is key to understanding why explaining addiction to children in a way they can comprehend is so imperative. Reassuring the child that they in no way are responsible for their parents or loved ones addiction can help them grasp the addiction is solely the parents. Three, they are not alone. According to, the annual average of 8.7 million children aged 17 or younger living in U.S. households with at least one parent who had an SUD highlights they are definitely not alone. And four, that it’s ok to talk about it. Be honest. Be open. Communication is key in navigating a difficult road together. Again, be sure to remind the child or children that their parents’ addiction is in no way their responsibility at all. And in no way are they capable or expected to fix their parents’ addiction, as it is not possible.

Explore How To Explain Addiction To Your Children Before Doing So

Battling addiction, or being the partner to someone battling addiction, is a struggle enough as it is. Therefore it is completely understandable that then having to explain addiction to a child is overwhelming. But, there are resources. There is support. You are not the only one in the world finding the courage to create a family addiction talk in hopes of supporting your children and their future. Finding a support group, researching online, and being fully aware of you and your family’s situation can all help you to explain addiction to children. Once you have found your way in explaining addiction, supporting your child or children through the process is essential.

At Maui Recovery we know first hand the pain and suffering that comes from active addiction, and we want to help you or your partner find the recovery they need. We welcome, nurture, and care for individuals and families through their journey of recovery by empowering their restoration and healing from addiction. We provide dynamic programs that address the Whole Self, transforming a shame core to a love core and cultivating meaningful human connection, intimacy, and purposeful living. On the magical, mythical island of Maui, each struggling addict undertakes their own Hero’s Journey to overcome their struggles and find the purpose and passion of their lives. We take honor in providing a safe, nurturing, and healing environment that allows a space for individuals to find the serenity to do the meaningful inner work, while growing spiritually as part of a supportive family community.

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If you’re struggling with an addiction, or know a friend or family member who is, reach out to one of our experts today. We’re here for you.

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