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How to Tell Your Kids You’re Going into Treatment

It’s not easy to admit you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and it’s even harder to admit it to your kids. If you have finally accepted that you need treatment, telling your kids about it certainly isn’t a conversation you will look forward to, but it’s necessary.

What you say to them will largely depend on how old they are. Younger children will perhaps be the most challenging because they will have the least understanding. You know best how to talk to your own kids. The main thing is to be honest. Tell her where you’re going and why. Don’t tell her you’re going to visit your aunt Betty for a month. Even relatively young children will understand an explanation like, “I drink too much alcohol and I can’t quit. I’m going to a place where people will help me quit. I’ll be gone for a month and I will miss you a lot.”

Children, especially younger children, will be afraid. They might think you’re leaving forever or that you’ll be hurt. It’s important to let them know you’ll be safe and you will definitely come home. Tell them you will be able to talk to them sometimes and that they might be able to visit in a little while. It might also help to show them pictures of where you’re going. Good residential treatment centers are often nice, and having a definite idea of where you’ll be removes some of their uncertainty.

Also, make it clear that your going away is in no way their fault. Kids think everything is about them, so if you go away with no explanation, they are likely to think they did something wrong. Make sure they know it’s your problem, not theirs. Tell them you want to be a better parent and apologize for the ways your addiction has hurt them.

During all this, keep your emotions under control. You will likely feel a lot of conflicting emotions, doubt, hope, guilt, love, sadness, fear, etc., but your child will take her cue from you. If you’re a mess, she’ll probably feel scared. If you’re calm, she’ll be calmer too. See if she has any questions. The more she knows about what’s going on, the less she’ll worry.

Telling your kids you’re going to rehab is hard, but starting recovery right means being honest. You probably judge yourself more harshly than they do, unless they’re teenagers. Remind yourself that you’re doing what’s best for them and for yourself. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.