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How Do You Teach Kids About Drug Addiction?

What you tell kids about drug addiction depends on how old they are and what they are able to understand. Even kids as young as five are capable of some kind of understanding. They have likely had some experience when they knew they weren’t supposed to do something but couldn’t resist doing it anyway. This is the essence of addiction, and most kids can understand that.

If the child is young, you might start a conversation by asking her how she felt last night when Mom was shouting, or when Dad forgot to pick her up from school. This can lead into an explanation of how Mom or Dad didn’t mean to act that way, but couldn’t help it.

The most important thing is to make sure the child understands the addict’s behavior is not her fault. Addicts tend to cause a lot of turmoil and anxiety at home. Children’s thinking is self-centered and they often assume they are the cause of arguments in the family. This creates a lot of guilt and fear. To make matters worse, addicts typically blame others, including their children, for their problems. It’s important to make the child understand that she is not responsible for the addict’s behavior.

Another important point is to be honest. Even young kids know when you’re lying to them. They notice what’s going on around them, often much more than adults do, but they may not know how to interpret much of it. They may come to strange conclusions sometimes. You don’t have to tell the child everything. How much you tell her depends to some extent on how old she is and what she can deal with. Acknowledge what she’s experienced and help her understand that addiction is compulsive behavior that requires treatment and support.

With adolescent children, stick to the facts. Teenagers don’t want you telling them how to think or feel. Any attempt at moralizing will likely backfire. Tell them honestly what is going on. Ask them how they feel, and listen to what they say. Answer their questions.

Remember, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Even if the addict won’t get treatment yet, you and your child can meet with a therapist or addiction counselor. You can attend Al-Anon meetings for families of alcoholics or your child can attend Alateen meetings, which are specifically for teens. Having the support of others can help you deal with living with an addict and help you support your loved one better in recovery.

Part of recovery is repairing relationships and restoring trust. At Gardens Wellness Center, we involve the whole family in recovery. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at