Understanding How to Talk to Your Kids About Your Recovery Journey

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Anyone who has struggled with addiction before and achieved sobriety knows how much time, determination, and hard work it can take to stay on the path of recovery. For those that have children, it is only natural that they would want to do anything and everything possible to ensure their kids don't experience the same struggles. Teaching your kids about the dangers of substance misuse may involve opening up to them about your own recovery journey. But how do you begin a conversation like this, and what are the right things to say? 

This is a delicate and very vulnerable conversation to have, and there are a lot of factors to consider. Age and maturity are certainly important factors. A child's previous awareness regarding your experience with substance misuse is also a factor. Working with a therapist can be very helpful in navigating this sort of conversation. This is a service that our team at Pathways Recovery Center offers. 

Determining When It's Time to Talk to Your Kids About Your Recovery Journey

It's important to seriously consider when the timing is right to discuss the topic of addiction with your children. Some children may be too young to understand the details of addiction. However, they could have been taught the basics at school and may come to you with questions. You can answer those questions by using language that they can relate to and understand. 

Children, even at a young age, can understand the concept of desiring something that will give them pleasure but that they should not have. They can also understand that certain actions have consequences. By using analogies that they will be able to understand, you can explain to them, in very basic terms, the dangers of addiction. Over time you can gradually build upon this knowledge. 

For example, a child knows that they could have the option to finish a whole bag full of candy if they wish. But they can understand that in doing so, they will later be quite sick and have a stomachache. Similar comparisons can be used to teach children that while something may seem desirable in the moment, it could have very lasting and dangerous consequences. 

As time goes on, you can use your own parental judgment to consider whether or not they are ready to learn more of the specifics about addiction. Remember that you're not trying to scare them. Rather, you are trying to inform them so that they can have all the knowledge they need to make good decisions when the time comes. Knowing the hard work and dedication you had to put into reclaiming your sobriety may encourage them to never attempt to use drugs or alcohol. 

Preparing to Have a Conversation With Your Child About Your Recovery Journey

When you feel that your child is old enough and mature enough to hear about your own recovery journey, take the time to prepare. This is not a conversation to jump into without careful thought and consideration. Plan out the time and place when you're going to have this discussion with your child. Make sure it is a private place where they will be able to focus without distraction. 

The best thing that you can do for your child with this discussion is to be honest with them. It's important to own up to past mistakes and be clear about how these mistakes impacted your life and those around you. But it is also equally important to discuss what you did to move forward and heal as you took back your life and sobriety. Let them know about the different ways that your life has improved since becoming sober. 

You'll also want to inform your child that addiction is a disease. Just like any other illness, you didn't choose to experience it. It's also not something that you can simply control or cure. However, it is something that you can choose to get help with and improve your life. 

As you go through your recovery journey, don't be afraid to check in with your child. Make them aware that you are still committed to your sobriety and that they can trust you and come to you for anything. Let them know that if they have questions about your recovery, they can feel comfortable asking them. 

Continuing the Conversation About Your Recovery Journey

As your children grow older, you can choose to share more information with them about your recovery journey. They may be better able to understand aspects that they couldn't before. Remember to keep the discussion honest and open and allow them to ask you any questions that they may have. 

While having discussions with your children like these can be difficult and uncomfortable, they are necessary. Your children will appreciate knowing the truth and seeing how far you've come. For guidance in navigating this conversation, consider contacting Pathways Recovery Center. 

No parent wants to imagine their children struggling with addiction one day, especially if this is something they've experienced firsthand. But when the time comes that your child is old enough to understand, having a truthful discussion is important. It can help prevent your child from turning to drug or alcohol misuse in the future. At Pathways Recovery Center, we recognize that navigating a parent's conversation about their recovery journey with a child can be difficult. Give us a call at (888) 771-0966 today, and a member of our team can help you prepare for and carry out this discussion with your child. We also offer services such as therapy to help you and your family. 

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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