Why You Should Talk to Your Children About Past Substance Abuse
Being a parent is by far one of the most difficult responsibilities you can have in life. You need to balance taking care of yourself and your family with other daily responsibilities like work, finances, and friendships. The stress of juggling all of these tasks along with the general ups and downs of life can cause you to look for relief, sometimes in the form of drugs and alcohol.
Once you start abusing substances, your children may also suffer from your choices. As a child, parents are the first people to impact you and teach you how to interact with the world. Watching a parent abuse drugs can leave a lasting impact on a child.
An important part of recovering from substance abuse is taking the time to mend meaningful relationships that were damaged when you used or drank. Although there is much talk about how to fix marriages and friendships after recovery, your children may be the ones most impacted. After recovery, it’s important to have an age-appropriate conversation about your addiction with your children.
Why It Is Important To Talk To Your Children
Younger people are more prone to substance abuse. Navigating the world as a young adult is such an interesting and dangerous phase. Kids work through a new world of emotions every day that can feel overwhelming and intense. They may not know how to build healthy coping strategies that help them manage this range of emotions, especially if their model for coping is unhealthy. They might experiment with ways to deal with their feelings, and drugs tend to be the number one escape mechanism. Younger people also deal with peer pressure and being around friends who influence them to use drugs.
Additionally, you may have unintentionally exposed your children to drugs and alcohol. Simply having substances in your child’s environment exposes them directly to the drugs. Kids are naturally curious and may try them when you aren’t around, whether or not they understand the consequences. There are many stories of children of addicted parents who have tried drugs or alcohol at a young age simply because their parent left them out or didn’t hide them well enough. Watching a parent use drugs to cope becomes their example of what to do when they become stressed. They can become influenced by your behaviors and grow curious about drugs and alcohol.
Addiction can be hereditary, so some people are predisposed to substance abuse. If you or someone in your family has been through addiction, while it is not guaranteed, your children have a higher risk of becoming addicted to substances as well. Talking to them about your past struggles with drugs can make them aware of that risk factor as well as the risk they put themselves in if they decide to use drugs.
Watching a parent battle addictions can be traumatizing. As a child, seeing your parents prioritize drugs over their family can be hurtful. This can leave them feeling lonely, ashamed, and can even cause them to feel distant or cold toward you. Talking to them about what you went through with addiction and the process you have gone through to heal from it allows them to understand and begin to heal. Give them the space to express how they feel so you can build a connection with your child again. Show them that you care about what they have to say and that they can be honest with you, even if it is hard to hear.
When Should You Talk To Them
Having a conversation with your children about your past is something that should be done at an appropriate time for both you and your child. It is best to talk to them as soon as possible because you may not be aware if they have already been introduced to substances or if they have underlying trauma regarding your addiction. Finding the right time and place is very important to help you approach this conversation. Create an intimate setting that allows you and your child to be relaxed. If you would like someone there to give you extra support, make sure it is someone your children will also feel comfortable with. Make sure your conversation is age-appropriate for your child. It’s never too early to understand the dangers of substance use, but use language and examples that are appropriate for the age of your child.
When one of a child’s caregivers abuses substances, often, their environment feels unstable. They can develop trust issues from the lack of emotional attention or physical affection from their parents which is important in a child’s development. Allowing them to have an open and honest discussion about what you went through and your process of recovery can help you develop a new relationship with your children and prevent addiction from going beyond you.
One difficult aspect of addiction is that it affects more than just the person going through it. Having a conversation with your children about your experience with substance use may be the last thing you want to do but it is extremely important to acknowledge the trauma they may have experienced watching one or both their parents battle addiction. At Mountain Peak Recovery, we know the hard work and strength it takes to go through detoxification and withdrawal. We want to help you stay successful after intensive rehabilitation, which is why we have programs dedicated to giving you continued care. Through our sober living facility, intensive outpatient programs, and more, you can focus on your sobriety while rebuilding your most important relationships like with your family and children. Give us a call at (801) 824-8829 to get more information on how we can help you maintain sobriety involve your children in your recovery process.