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Explaining Your Alcohol Addiction Treatment to Children

Explaining Addiction to Children

Alcoholism can be a difficult concept for children to grasp. However, children often do not get credit for their awareness of an alcohol problem–noticing the effects of alcoholism in a parent, and worrying accordingly. When you or a family member have decided to seek treatment for your alcoholism, it can present a wonderful opportunity to talk to your children about the alcohol treatment and its role in healing your family and restoring trust.

Explaining Your Alcohol Addiction Treatment to Children

Children need an open and honest discussion about alcohol addiction, tailored to their level of maturity and understanding. While many parents may feel alcohol addiction is a topic that’s best avoided, when it has already impacted the family, contextualizing alcohol addiction treatment can actually help your children adapt through the transition to an adult’s sobriety. Here are a few approaches that you might incorporate into a discussion about a family member’s alcohol addiction treatment with your child.

  • Speak Their Language
    Give children the level of detail that’s appropriate for their age group. Use direct and simple language to help them understand the problem and the solution. Make sure to emphasize the hope involved in alcohol addiction treatment.
  • Apologize for Any Stress They’ve Experienced
    When a family member has suffered from an alcohol addiction, it often has already impacted the children in the family. Parents sometimes become absent, unreliable or unkind when in the throes of alcohol addiction. Even if someone else in the family has been struggling with alcohol addiction, make an apology to your child for any hurt feelings they have encountered as a result. Avoid shaming the alcohol addicted individual in the process.
  • Explain Alcohol Addiction
    Sometimes, children can empathize with adult problems if concepts are laid out simply. Explain that sometimes people feel really badly and find negative ways to deal with their pain through alcohol. Explain that it often only makes them feel worse, and they sometimes need help to stop and try a better way of dealing with problems. Explain that special doctors will be helping the alcohol addicted individual to remove all the alcohol so that they can be healthy again, and other doctors will help them eliminate negative feelings and problems through talking. Let them know that after treatment, the formerly alcohol addicted individual will try new and better ways of coping, such as exercise or talking about their feelings.
  • Address Children’s Fears
    Explain that alcohol addiction can be cured with the right treatment. Address popular myths about alcoholism–and any shame that society may associate with the problem. Make sure they have a solid foundation so that they will not fear relapse if they hear otherwise from schoolmates or the popular culture. Address one of their biggest fears–that a family member’s alcohol addiction was their fault–and explain the problem had absolutely nothing to do with their behavior. Let them know how much joy and happiness they bring into your family’s lives.
  • Consider Family Therapy
    Sometimes, a child or family psychologist can help your child and family work through fears and miscommunications about alcohol dependency. Inquire at the inpatient alcohol rehab center that you or your relative have chosen about family alcohol counseling services, as they can be a wonderful avenue of healing and restoration for children and adults alike.


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