Addiction can be a tough battle to face. It can be even tougher to explain this battle to a child.
Children often have difficulty understanding complex situations, and addiction is one of them. The condition can cause a person to exhibit unfamiliar behavior, such as violence, in the home. When this happens, children deserve an explanation at the very least.
Effects of addiction exposure
Addiction should never be ignored. AlcoholReb.com explained that if children do not understand what is happening, they could experience long-term consequences, including:
- Becoming withdrawn and timid
- Using substances themselves
- Displaying aggression or violence
- Taking on parental responsibility.
- When exposed to addiction, children can also feel worried, sad, resentful or angry.
As a guardian, you can help prevent these feelings and actions by clearly explaining what addiction is in a way that is appropriate for the child’s age. Children should also know that they are not alone: The National Association for the Children of Alcoholics reported that 1 in 5 children under 18 are exposed to addiction.
Addressing addiction and blame
You can explain addiction-caused behavior changes. People may lie or give excuses for their addictions, such as blaming it on their spouse or children. Caretakers should tell children the true reason behind the addiction, such as mental illness or genetics.
Ultimately, children should understand that it is not their fault. They might think their behavior caused a person to use. Remind children that this is certainly not the case, and that addiction is not something they can give to someone else.
Addiction involves ebb and flow. Explain that while there is hope for reaching recovery, there is also the chance of relapse, RehabHelpers stated. It can be difficult for children to understand why their parent gets sick again after seeking treatment.
Statements to avoid
As you explain addiction, there are a few things to avoid:
- Do not shame the person with the addiction
- Do not make promises that the parent will fully recover
- Do not let the children come to their own conclusions on addiction.
An initial talk can be a healthy way to address addiction with a child, but it might not be enough. Children may have a lot of questions on addiction, AlcoholRehab advised. When you discuss addiction with children matters. For instance, if you wait too long, they may need counseling. Once the person with the addiction is recovering, seeking family therapy is also a good idea to help children cope.