June 10, 2019 Felicia Durling

A Tough Conversation: How to Tell Your Child You’re Going to Rehab

One of the least talked-about aspects of addiction is the one in four children who grow up in a home with a parent dealing with substance abuse. When it’s time for that parent to go to rehab, it’s important to have the tough conversation about going to rehab. Honesty is vital as well as knowing how to tell your children the right way.

Here are five important tips to maintain conversation between you and your children when you’re headed to rehab.

1. Making Addiction Make Sense

When it comes time to talk to your children about rehab, you need to give them a foundation of understanding when it comes to what you’re going through. The first step might be to explain to them exactly what addiction is. Once they understand that, you can explain the rest.

Addiction is a medical illness, so start off by telling them that you’re going to a place where you can be helped with your illness. They won’t be scared about losing you when you explain that where you’re going is to help people like you get better.

When talking with them, it’s important to communicate in an age-appropriate way. While you should be honest about whatever you have to say to them, you need to avoid speaking over their head.

Talk to them and ask if they’re aware that you’re sick and that you have a problem. If they say they know already, you can then have them explain to you what they already know. This is the best way to meet them where their understanding currently lies and keep them informed.

Explaining addiction can be hard and might lead you to have to talk about narcotics in a way that you’re not ready to. It’s better to take the approach of an illness that needs to be treated.

2. Tell Them About the Rehab

Your children will be curious about where you’re going and what makes it special. It’s probably in your best interest to explain what it’s about and even show them pictures. When they can visualize the place better, they might have a stronger understanding of what it is and what it’s like.

Walk them through what you’ll be doing from day to day. Tell them about the types of meetings that you’ll be going to and how a counselor is going to help you with your addiction.

Tell them about how safe the place is and how well-trained the people who are working with you are. Mark the dates you’ll be gone on a calendar so that they have something concrete to look at with regard to your stay.

Ask what questions they have and be open to answering everything. The more open you are with them, the better it will pay off in the long run. You’ll make it easier for you to communicate together for years to come.

3. Let Them Know How They Can Get In Touch

No child wants to be cut off from their parents when they’re young. If they’re not ready to be separated from you, they’ll want to know how to get in touch in great detail.

Most rehabs have rules about how often you can be in touch and when you can call. Let them know as much information as you can about when they can expect you to call.

Make it clear that you don’t want to leave but that you have to in order to get better. Rather than let your sickness take over your body, you have to rest and get better.

Call them as much as possible once you’re there and let them know that you intend to come back as soon as possible. Once you’re better, you’ll be ready to come back and see them again.

4. Stay Strong For Them

It’s hard to manage your emotions when your children are expressing their pain to you. It’s reasonable for you to be upset but you have to do what you can not to cry. It’s heart-wrenching to hear a child become sad or if they start crying.

However, if you don’t stay strong, it’s more likely they’ll find it harder to stay calm. When you’re unable to keep it together, take a break, take a breath, pause the conversation, and then come back. It’s vital to stay calm.

Let your child express whatever they need to. Make it clear that they’re entitled to be as sad as they need to, lose their own composure, and cry if they want. Your focus in this conversation is to make your child feel comfortable.

5. Manage the Return as Well

When you return from rehab, your child might be overjoyed and want to spend all of their time with you. However, for your rehabilitation to truly take hold, you’ll need to manage your time and energy. Adjusting to life without your addiction is hard and if not done properly, you’ll relapse.

Make sure there’s plenty of space for you and your children during this time. Do what you can to ask for help from friends and loved ones in caring for your children. You might not be ready to provide 100% of the attention they need during this time.

Things are sure to get better, but, like anything else, you need to take it one day at a time. Taking time to readjust is vital for the success of your rehab stay.

Telling Your Child You’re Going to Rehab is Hard

There’s literally no way around this aspect of dealing with your drug addiction. Telling your child that you’re going to rehab is an important part of letting them know what’s going on and that you love them no matter what. If you’re not able, to be honest with them, you’ll be dealing with trust issues down the road.

For more about the role that family plays in going to rehab, check out our guide for tips.

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