Talking about addiction or alcoholism with a child can be quite challenging, not only because of the challenging subject matter, but also because each child will require a different approach depending on their age and background. You must also take the child’s relationship with the addict or alcoholic into consideration. Drugs or alcohol may be frightening, confusing, or otherwise upsetting to the child depending on their own personal experiences with the subject.
The first thing you must keep in mind is being honest. Explaining addiction and alcoholism in the most clear, simple, and honest way is the best approach. If the child is older, you can go into more detail about the ways drugs and alcohol change the way a person behaves. The various causes of addiction can also be discussed with an older child. This can encourage a sense of compassion and understanding, rather than placing blame on the addict.
Another important point to make to the child is that the addiction is in no way their fault and that the reasons a person drinks or uses drugs has nothing to do with them. Discussing this with a child encourages a deeper understanding of the nature of addiction and a belief that help for addiction is possible. It’s important to ask a child how they feel about the situation and to give them space to have their voice heard. Hiding addiction or ignoring it will only repress the child’s feelings, creating unnecessary fear and anxiety around the subject. This can cause irreversible emotional problems with the child later on in life.
Many children will blame themselves for a parent’s or other family member’s addiction. It’s important for a child to understand that their behavior at home, school, or relationships with siblings is not the cause of addiction or alcoholism in the family. The child has no control or responsibility for the addiction. Anything the addict or alcoholic does or says when they are under the influence is not to be taken seriously.
Many children can benefit from thinking of addiction as a sickness or disease. This makes it possible for them to understand how addiction can be treated, how sometimes it gets worse, or how it makes people feel unwell. In this way, a child will be able to see addiction as something they don’t have to control or feel any responsibility for. It’s important however, to make sure a child doesn’t fall into a caretaking role when a parent is an addict or alcoholic. This is very common and can also do damage to the child’s emotional well being in the long run.
Other keys points to go over during a conversation about addiction with a child should include:
-That the causes of addiction are still relatively unknown. It can be a combination of genetic, emotional, or chemical causes.
-It is hard for an addict to admit they have a problem. They will often blame work, stress, family, or other things in their life rather than face the problem.
-Drugs and alcohol cause a person to say things and act in ways that aren’t who they normally are.
-No one can force a person to stop abusing drugs or alcohol. They must make the decision themselves.
-There are people out there to talk to, including teachers, counselors, support groups, and therapists. A child should never feel like they have no one to turn to.