Finding out how to explain drug addiction to a child is a difficult task. The curiosity of a child can be seen as one of the most fascinating things to witness as a parent. Their motivation to look into things, break things apart, and even ask about things that many people lose when they get older. However, when their curiosity ventures to sensitive topics such as drugs, it can be uncomfortable for parents, especially when they’re an addict themselves.
Honesty and transparency are key approaches needed to have a fulfilling relationship with children. They might not understand everything in its totality, but they definitely see the effects.
If you are struggling with telling your child you have an addiction give us a call today. Call us now at 385-327-7418. We can connect you with the resources you need for explaining parent addiction to a child.
The Ultimate Role Model
Pill addiction is complicated. Unfortunately, the majority of the pills people abuse are prescriptions. Sometimes prescribed medications can activate addiction traits that a patient didn’t know existed within them. In addition, these traits may have already shown but haven’t linked to drugs.
When someone is addicted to prescription pills, the addiction affects the addict and their loved ones. Abusing prescription pills or any substance affects the brain and other parts of the body. Behavior changes that stem from addiction can affect surrounding individuals. Some of these individuals can be the ones loved the most: children.
Children are affected by addiction in many ways. One way is their overall perception of who you are as their parent. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry explains the effect of parents being role models to their children. They point out that “children look up to a variety of role models to help shape how they behave in school, relationships, or when making difficult decisions.”. Additionally, they laid out suggestions on how to discuss role models with them:
- Have your child identify what qualities he admires in his role model
- Give examples of people in your community who you feel have positive qualities and are a good influence on others
- Talk about people you look up to for guidance and inspiration
Having these conversations are great suggestions for establishing an understanding of role models but the best suggestion is leading by example.
Maintaining a strong exemplary lifestyle for your children, along with your honesty and transparency, will reinforce your approach for swaying your child away from possible addictions or the temptations of taking drugs.
What Should I Say?
After initiating a conversation with children about their role model, ask them about their perspective on how you are. Like everyone else, children can spot differences in behavior, although they might not know its cause.
When on drugs or alcohol, an individual’s mood and actions will change depending on the side effects and how the body decides to react. Your children might have already noticed your addiction before you thought about talking to them about it. They may see your changes in behavior but have not defined it as addiction.
Maintaining an open and healthy dialogue will help with learning how to explain drug addiction to a child. You won’t know quite what to say if you don’t see how they feel. Some tips for what to say to children about addiction include:
- Addiction Is a Disease: When they are drunk or high, sometimes parents can do things that are mean or things that don’t make sense. Children need to know that their parents are not “bad” people. They are sick people who have a disease.
- It’s Not Your Fault – Children must understand that they are not why a parent drinks too much or abuses drugs. They did not cause the addiction, and they cannot stop it.
- You Are Not Alone – Children need to realize that their situation is not unique and not alone. Millions of children have parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. They need to know that, even in their school, there are other children in the same situation.
- It’s Okay to Talk – Children in homes with substance abuse need to know that it’s okay to talk about the problem without having to feel scared, ashamed, or embarrassed.
A Time & Place for Everything
Understandably, you want your children to live a life completely untouched by drug or alcohol misuse. However, life doesn’t always allow people to dodge the obstacles it has for them. A realistic perspective and approach to life will help anyone in the long run.
Hiding your addiction from your children isn’t the solution to them avoiding addiction themselves. Anybody can learn about addiction, but it can also be genetic. Trying to find a good time to tell your child that your addiction is only wasting time. The time is now!
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts highlights conversing with your child about your addiction, stating there is no “perfect time” or “perfect talk” when explaining parent addiction to a child.
The same way a child can consume prescription pills and experience harm at any moment is the same way conversations to prevent accidental, or intentional, pill consumption can help. These conversations minimize the likelihood of it happening.
Take advantage of any moment you have with your children to talk about addiction in general as well as your addiction. Some children see their parents as superheroes or just people who can’t do any wrong. Telling your children about your addiction humanizes you and puts the realistic perspective right in front of their eyes. It doesn’t matter if the talk happens during a car ride to school, on the phone, or watching television. If you don’t have the conversation now and keep waiting to have it, you may be doing your children more disservice than you think.
Take This Approach
You can prevent your children from falling into the same addiction you have by being honest. Honesty is the best policy. Don’t be afraid to tell your children about your faults that they might not notice. Once again, children often look at their parents as superheroes or perfect beings. Letting your child know you have flaws will better prepare them for the real world. They will be able to embrace their imperfections if they see you do the same.
Another form of prevention is implementing “talk times” to stay updated with their knowledge of addiction and other things. Starting the initial conversation about addiction was hard. However, now that the ice has broken, continuing the conversation with deeper situational advice, education, and relatable information will keep the information fresh in their head throughout their lives.
Give exit plans along with the addiction education you equip your children with. They’re not going to be in your sight all the time, especially when they are teenagers. Considering curiosity, maturity, and peer pressure, it’s not uncommon for your child to be approached by a stranger or friend to try prescription pills and not know how to exit the situation.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that it is imperative to “talk with your children about what they would do if faced with a decision about drugs, such as texting a code word to a family member.” Phone calls with certain code words could also be a great exit idea for a child feeling pressure to take drugs.
How to Store and Dispose of Drugs
Storing and getting rid of your prescription pills in a safe space can also minimize a child improperly using them. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has take-back programs designed for individuals prescribed to medication to give back their unused, unopen prescription pills. If the program isn’t available, flushing the medicine would be ideal. If using the trash bins are your preferred option for disposal, The Food and Drug Administration suggests to:
- Remove the drugs from their original containers and mix them with something undesirable, such as used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. This makes the medicine less appealing to children and pets and unrecognizable to someone who might intentionally go through the trash looking for drugs.
- Put the mixture in something you can close (a re-sealable zipper storage bag, empty can, or another container) to prevent the drug from leaking or spilling out.
- Throw the container in the garbage.
- Scratch out all your personal information on the empty medicine packaging to protect your identity and privacy. Throw the packaging away.
Remaining transparent with your children about addiction can be hard at first, but building a strong relationship with your children can bring you so much closer to them. Before having the conversation with them, however, all of it starts from within.
Being honest and accepting with yourself breaks the nervousness behind explaining parent addiction to a child. Educate yourself on your addiction, and you will know what to clarify once questions come up.
Also, don’t have these conversations with your children without reassuring them that they aren’t the addiction cause. They need to know they are valued and loved despite what you or anyone might be going through. Stay calm, have an attentive ear, and don’t create any false scary stories to somewhat “trick” your child into doing right. Always remember that they will go through their trials or tribulations, whether you know about them or not. The least you can do is equip them with the tools needed to get through them.
If you need additional help with how to explain drug addiction to a child, call us today. We will provide the resources you need and advice on how to explain drug addiction to a child. If required, we can also connect you with rehabilitation for your addiction. To find resources in your area, call us at 385-327-7418 today.
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