Like it or not, this can be an all too real scenario that should be confronted directly. With over 30 million Americans afflicted by substance abuse problems, many children feel the repercussions. However, there are steps to take that will alleviate the fallout.
1. Know What You’re Up Against
Children are still growing and learning; while they do, they’re absorbing experiences they’ll apply later in life. In a home run by addicts, the knowledge they absorb can include chaos, lack of discipline, and no order. This could create a future addict, or a future parent who may overstress control and discipline on their own families down the road.
These children tend to feel responsible for their parents’ problem. So, it’s important to realize that they might hesitate to “be even more disloyal,” care for themselves, or confront the issue.
2. Set the Tone
The right timing and environment are essential for true success when talking to children of addicted parents. Find a place where the child feels safe, that’s comfortable and quiet. Also, try to have solutions in place for the parents; otherwise, you may do nothing but bring up a problem that the child has been trying to suppress, with no hope of solving it. Give the child some hope.
3. Know What to Say
Before having this conversation, ensure that you have a fair understanding about what the family is going through. Be prepared with answers. Also, know that you’re talking to children and that they have been lied to over and over again by people whom they love. Tell the truth, and keep the information digestible for someone of their age.
4. It’s Not Their Fault
The National Association for Children of Alcoholics stresses “Seven Cs of Addiction”:
● I didn’t Cause it.
● I can’t Cure it.
● I can’t Control it.
● I can Care for myself
● By Communicating my feelings,
● Making healthy Choices, and
● By Celebrating myself.
Focus on these points and truly ensure that the child that you are trying to help doesn’t blame him or herself for this problem.
5. Let Them Talk
This is very important. Don’t cut the child’s understanding by not letting them talk about it. Talking about it can help the problem, along with the possible new changes, sink in. It can also make the child feel safer when they talk about future problems. Free-flowing communication can be the key to feeling safe later in life.