Speaking with your children about addiction in any capacity can feel overwhelming. You might not know how much they understand, and you may worry that you’ll frighten them. While you will have to determine what works specifically for your family, you can keep some tips in mind to help make the conversation run more smoothly.
Start the Discussion Correctly
The beginning of the conversation can seriously dictate how the rest of the discussion goes. For example, if you begin by yelling and accusing your teenager of abusing drugs, you are likely to then have a contentious fight as opposed to a reasonable conversation. While it may be impossible to find the perfect time, you can find the right one. Let your kids know that you want to talk with them at a set time on a specified day. Try to choose one when not too much else is going on in the household or on everyone’s daily schedules.
Consider their age
The age of your kids plays a significant role in whether the time is right now or not. For example, when your children are still in elementary school, the idea of drugs themselves may be entirely unknown. Therefore, trying to have a discussion about addiction can prove confusing for them when they do not even know what drugs are. Knowing what your kids are learning in school is a reasonable way to understand what they may comprehend about drugs. For example, many schools establish programs for raising awareness about drug and alcohol use. In many cases, these programs begin when students are in middle school or high school.
Assess Whether Current Addiction is a Factor
Talking about addiction becomes even more important when you think that your kids are experimenting with drugs or alcohol. You may also be in a situation where your children are addicted to a substance. In these cases, talking about addiction should generally happen sooner rather than later. One way to approach these delicate situations is to have a representative from a rehab facility or a trained counselor from the school assist with approaches for how to explain drug addiction to a child. This conversation could turn into a life-saving one for your kids.
Discuss Genetics Predispositions
Your children may scoff at your lectures about drug and alcohol addiction. In fact, they may believe that they are entirely protected against these problems. However, you must let them know that they are not necessarily immune. In fact, they may have a predisposed addiction. The correlation between genetics and addiction is a necessary topic to cover. Rehabs note that “studies have shown that 40% to 60% of predisposition to addiction is attributed to genetics.” You must emphasize to your kids that their bodies may become physically addicted to drugs even if they are mentally trying to fight against it. While you don’t want to terrify your kids into thinking that they have no control, you want them to be aware of any family history that may make it more difficult.
Ask Questions About Your Family’s Addiction History
How to explain drug addiction to a child is difficult whether you are discussing the genetics of addiction or other topics. Early on in the conversation, you could ask your children what they already know about the situation. By doing so, you are engaging them in the conversation. Children of all ages sometimes feel uncomfortable and awkward discussing these topics with their parents because they think that they are being lectured at. When you ask questions, you better show that you are looking to have a conversation where you are both a listener and a speaker.
Offer Guidance and Help
Even when you are asking questions, your kids might still walk away thinking that you were trying to scold them. Talking about predisposed addiction, types of drug usage and abuse and treatment isn’t easy, but you want to make sure that you emphasize your guiding role to your children. Let them know that you are there if they need to talk. In the event that you suspect current problems with substance use, inform them that you will look at programs together as a family.
Discussing a history of addiction in the family can feel difficult, but support is available. Family First Adolescent Services specializes in treating mental health and substance use disorders in adolescents. With a focus on family care, we believe support from parents and family members yields a higher success rate in adolescents.