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How to Talk About Your Child’s Substance Abuse Addiction

talking to family about child addiction

Addiction comes with its own stigma. Just the word can cause feelings of unease or an inability to understand the concept of the disease. But the reality of the situation is that addiction is a family disease and those who have seen your child struggle When a child develops an addiction, parents shouldn’t feel like they’re alone. It’s important that they know how to approach others about their child’s addiction in a way that’s constructive and opens a dialogue.

Every family comes with its own set of skeletons in all sorts of closets, and it can be easy to overlook or deny the presence of addiction within the household. It seems like this is nothing but a disease of extremes. Either it’s being ignored or it’s the center of everything within the family. There can be emotionally charged conversations followed by long periods of heavy silence. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Finding a healthy middle ground is possible and preferable.

Healthy Communication Patterns

When we talk about healthy communication patterns relating to addiction, we’re talking about the best way to approach the topic with the addict and other concerned parties. It’s a sensitive topic at best and having a pre-formed plan for the discussion can make it more accessible for everyone. When it comes to treatment, communication means finding a way to openly discuss addiction in a way that’s constructive, informative and inspires compassion.

All too often, parents of addicted children feel a certain amount of blame or guilt. This isn’t uncommon, but it shouldn’t stop them from receiving the support they need to cope with the situation. Addiction doesn’t have to be a dirty little secret—it needs to be something that can be talked about in a productive way.

Establishing healthy communication patterns involves the following:

  • Approaching the addict with compassion.
  • Avoid blame or violent confrontation.
  • Talk about the reasons for drug use, try to understand.
  • Don’t threaten or use any form of coercion.

Remember that your initial conversation isn’t an intervention, but an opportunity to try and understand what’s happening. This is the time when you can start understanding what your child is going through, doing, and what type of help they need. Having a real dialogue is better than many of the alternatives.

There will also come a time when you’ll need to speak to friends or family members about the problems that your child is having with drugs and alcohol. It’s important to understand how to control the conversation and to help them remain open-minded. There will be a lot of people who will be concerned about your child, and it’s essential that they not be left out of the loop.

The key to these conversations is honesty. Always approach the topic head-on and don’t let stigma or shame infiltrate your communication habits. It can be beneficial to discuss the method of communication with your child prior to speaking to others about their addiction.

Discussing Addiction with Your Loved One

So far, we’ve covered the communication techniques necessary to speak to your child about their addiction. However, it’s important to speak to your child about how they want their addiction discussed while they’re in treatment. Respecting their wishes is incredibly important and can have an impact on the level of stress that your child experiences while in rehab.

Many people avoid coming forward about their addiction because they’re afraid of what others will think. Your child might be hesitant to enter treatment if they believe that you’ll be at home telling everyone what’s going on in their life.

Talk to them about how they’d like the subject approached with those who need to know, like employers, significant others and people very close to them. Then, ask about how they’d like you to answer questions from friends and family. People will definitely notice your child’s absence and having a communication plan in place can make the entire process as painless as possible.

Sit down with your son or daughter and make a list of everyone close to them. Ask them what response they’d like to give to everyone on that list. Allow them the opportunity to contact them prior to going into treatment, or to pen notes to everyone giving a personal response if they feel up to it. This is largely dependent on their state of mind and ability to reason with you and with others.

Honoring your child’s wishes about how their disease is discussed is the most important thing in this instance. They need to know that they can trust you to respect their wishes and to support them during one of the most difficult things they’ll ever go through.

Talking About Your Child’s Addiction to Others

Having a child who’s in treatment can be scary, to say the least. It’s important that you seek out treatment or a support group of your own. These groups and counseling meetings are confidential and you should be able, to be honest within their confines. However, these situations will only be a portion of the communication you’ll need to navigate surrounding your child’s addiction.

You’ll need to confide in at least one person about the struggle your child is having with addiction. It’s imperative that you continue to respect your child’s wishes during this communication, and that you set up personal boundaries for sharing. There is such a thing as oversharing, and it can damage the way that others see your child.

When a person is using drugs or alcohol, they aren’t at their best. This often leaves friends and family with feelings of bitterness and anger. Speaking about your child’s disease from a negative place can influence the way that others perceive them. You’ll get over how you feel and love them regardless, but sharing something negative with someone who isn’t in that position can change how they see your child forever.

Never share information that would humiliate your child or break that delicate bond of trust. It’s essential to their recovery that you help to create a strong support system for them when they’re finally ready to come home.