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How to Talk to Your Kids About Your Addiction and Recovery

Living a life of recovery after a season (or a lifetime) of addiction comes with a new set of rules and challenges. If you have children, you learn quickly that there are some ways to talk to your kids about addiction and recovery that are effective – and others that aren’t. Depending on varying factors, you as a responsible parent should discuss the facts of your situation without ever forgetting that your children are unique individuals who comprehend differently and at different levels. Here are some points to consider when talking to your kids about your addiction and recovery:

Keep the Conversation Age Appropriate

The first consideration to bear in mind is: how old is your child? How you speak to them will change based on their age. Terminology will change to be comprehensible for their cognitive level. But some things must always occur in your conversation, whatever the age of your child:

  • Tell the truth, because children will know when you are lying.
  • Speak to them with respect, without talking down to them.
  • Allow the opportunity for questions to be asked. You may be surprised by the child’s level of awareness of the situation.
  • Give the child time to process what you are saying. Rushing them can cause them to shut down emotionally.

Be Prepared So You Can Be Effective

Apart from their age, there are other factors to remember so there will be a successful understanding for your child of your addiction and ongoing recovery. Some examples of how to talk to your kids about what is happening include:

  • Use Time Limits When Talking About Addiction: Often, we may feel like the more we talk, the easier it will be for children to understand what we are saying. The truth, though, is that children respond best to shorter periods of conversation with appropriate spacing for processing the information. Too many words absolutely can lead to confusion.
  • Keep a Calm Atmosphere: Don’t allow distractions or chaos to distract from the conversation. Maintain a relaxed, calm environment that allows your child to process the information without excess stress.
  • Educate Yourself: Turn to professionals for guidance and do some research so that you are equipped with answers to any questions they might ask. The more knowledge you have, the more confidence you will have in your answers – the more your kid will find comfort in what you have to say.
  • Put Your Addiction and Recovery into Perspective: Allow your kids to know that they are not alone, that your family is just one of the many families in the world having to deal with this type of situation. Never to diminish their own experience, but to allow them to see that there is nothing about their situation that is brand new, that there are others who understand what is involved in recovery.

The Seven Cs of Addiction

One final aspect of conversation to consider is called the “Seven Cs of Addiction”, which is an effective tool for helping children understand where to go in the days of recovery that are ahead. The Seven Cs are:

  • I didn’t CAUSE it
  • I can’t CONTROL it
  • I can’t CURE it
  • But I can take CARE of myself
  • By COMMUNICATING my feelings
  • Making good CHOICES and
  • CELEBRATING myself.

With these tools, you can be prepared to move forward into a conversation that is honest, fruitful, and loving. It will be a conversation that allows you and your kids to face the challenge of addiction with a unified front, to join together in healing and to begin a dialogue that continues in the days ahead.