Talking to kids about addiction

man talking to young girl at the beach about addiction

Imagine for a moment that you are a child and you are watching your father, whom you love more than anything in the world, struggle and spiral out of control. You notice that Daddy isn’t acting like himself, he loses his temper easily and is not home nearly as often as he once was. Perhaps you start to wonder what you had done to make him so upset and start to blame yourself for how he is acting – why else wouldn’t he want to be home with you? What you don’t know is that Daddy is struggling with addiction. 

Addiction not only affects the person struggling with the disease, but also every other person that he or she comes into contact with, most specifically family and friends. 

Often, adults attempt to shelter children from what is going on around them, making excuses for the other person’s actions. This is done as a way to protect them; however, ultimately acting as though the issue does not exist, only harms children more. Children are smart; they are intuitive, and if a similar situation as above is playing out in front of them, they will most likely not believe your excuses anyway.

It is far more beneficial to be open and honest with children about addiction, teaching them the dangers of drugs and alcohol and open up a line of communication early in life. 

When starting to have these conversations some of the most important things to remind them is:

  • Addiction is a disease;
  • It is not the child’s fault that their loved one is struggling with addiction; 
  • There is nothing he or she can do to make this person not abuse drugs and alcohol;
  • Reassure the child that he or she is not alone and that you are always there for anything they may need;
  • The child is allowed to be angry, hurt, confused, etc., and that it doesn’t mean that he or she loves the person any less.

Encouraging kids to talk about what they are experiencing is very important to help them understand and accept their feelings. But don’t be surprised if talking to you or another adult isn’t exactly what he or she wants to do. But just because he says he doesn’t want to talk, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something important to say. Other ways for kids to express their emotions outside of talking to a parent or close relative could be through art, journaling, confiding in a trusted adult outside of the family or through conventional talk therapy. 

If you have a child that is close to someone struggling with addiction and are unsure how to broach the topic, contact us today. The Farm understand that this is not an easy time and can help point you in the right direction.