It’s time to get into drug and alcohol treatment, but you’re worried about having to tell your child that you’ll be leaving them for a while to invest in your health. How much do they need to know? Will they understand? Will they resent you? Will they feel safe and comfortable with whoever cares for them while you’re gone?
Often, these worries can feel so overwhelming that you may decide not to enter treatment after all. It’s important to remember that delaying treatment will likely do more damage to your children. Your addiction will worsen, and you won’t be able to be there for them in the long term, emotionally or physically. Taking the time now to step away and focus on yourself and your healing is critical.
Even if you recognize the value of getting into drug and alcohol addiction, you still have to find a way to communicate this need with your child. What do you say to your child when you need to leave for addiction treatment? Here are some tips to help you.
Be Open and Honest – It Could Save Their Life
Beyond a doubt, drug and alcohol addiction treatment is life-saving, and most parents want to do what’s necessary to help their child avoid facing addiction in their own lives. Therefore, be as open and honest with your child as is possible and appropriate for their age.
- Communicate what is happening with you: you have a disease that is making you sick.
- Discuss that you’re going to get care to help you recover from this disease.
- Describe what residential drug treatment is, what happens there, and why it’s necessary to be away from home.
Be sure to communicate that your goal is to recover and stop using these substances. Describe, to the level of their maturity, what you are facing daily and how you want to make it better.
Recognize Your Child’s Pain and Fear
They are scared, both for you and for themselves. Acknowledge their fear. Instead of saying, “You’re going to have so much fun spending time with your cousins while I get care…” say, “I know it is going to be so hard for us to be away from each other, but we’ll find ways to talk as often as possible.”
It may also be important to recognize their anger. Most children feel, to some extent, the effects of their parent’s addiction. They may be incredibly angry with you for the pain of not being able to rely on you or connect with you because of your addiction. Sincerely apologize to them for how you’ve hurt them. Be open about the mistakes you’ve made and be sure to tell them that no matter how bad your addiction is, it does not change the fact that you love and care about your child. Even if they “already know that” tell them specifically.
Set Up a Therapy Session for Help
If communicating with your child about this type of treatment is difficult, it may be a good idea to set up a therapy session with them. Family therapy like this can happen even before you enter into addiction treatment, creating a way for you to have hard conversations in a controlled environment.
Set the Stage for Success
Choose the right time to have this discussion. Some things to consider include:
- Choose a time when everyone is calm and not distracted
- Choose a time when the family is alone together
- Wait until you have a plan for treatment in place so you can provide specifics
- Make sure there is plenty of time for discussion without feeling rushed
Once you have the right time established, be calm and sincere in the way you speak to your child. Tell them what is going to happen, including what will change for them during this process. Talk about school, homework, activities, chores–anything that is part of their daily routine that might change. Assure them that you will be able to see them and talk with them during treatment.
Also, talk about what comes after treatment. Talk about your plans and hopes for the future. You may be able to have the time to focus on your relationship with your child again. Don’t make empty promises. If you are not sure you can keep a promise, don’t make it.
If you’re ready to take the step to get the treatment you need for yourself and your family, contact English Mountain Recovery Center. Our Tennessee facility provides successful and effective addiction treatment. Let us help you prepare for your future with your child, one that does not involve the use of drugs or alcohol.