Addiction is not confined to the individual; it affects the whole family. That’s why it’s so important to address your addiction with your children—especially when you’ll be going away to rehab. Here are 8 tips for talking with your kids about going to rehab in order to calm their fears and strengthen the relationship.
1 – Tell the truth. While it might be tempting to tell your kids you’ll be visiting a family member or taking a business trip, it’s better to be honest about your long term treatment. You are not protecting your kids by lying; on some level, they already know something is wrong. Telling the truth will help you rebuild trust in the relationship.
2 – Give age-appropriate information. For very young children, it’s best to keep explanations simple. Stick with the facts: You’re sick and you need to see some doctors to help you get better. For older children and teenagers, you will need to give more detail. Explain that you need to stop drinking and doing drugs, and going to an addiction center can help you do that.
3 – Explain the arrangements. If your kids will be staying at home with your co-parent while you’re in a rehab center, there may not be much disruption in their routine. But if other caregivers will be involved, let your kids know what to expect so they feel more in control.
4 – Keep your emotions in check. Getting hysterical will scare your kids and make the situation more difficult for them. Though the subject of long term rehab may be upsetting for you, let their needs—not yours—guide the conversation.
5 – Ask for feedback. Your kids may be angry, scared, sad, relieved, or even in denial about you going to inpatient rehab. Let them ask questions, and answer as simply and honestly as you can. Give your children the freedom to deal with this on their own terms and at their own pace.
6 – Talk about keeping in touch. Explain that rehab centers have rules about how often you can use the phone or computer. Tell your kids how often you plan to call or write, but don’t make promises you can’t keep.
7 – Reassure them of your return. Make sure your kids know that this is only temporary; you will come home as soon as you leave the rehab center. Mark your return date as well as any visiting days on the calendar. If you don’t know the exact length of your treatment, give your kids an approximate time frame.
8 – Let them off the hook. Tell your kids that their behavior plays no role in the fact that you need long term treatment. It’s not their fault; you don’t drink or do drugs because of them. They didn’t cause the problem, and they can’t fix it, either.
Rather than glossing over your addiction and your need for rehab, commit to being honest with your kids. Doing so will help you build strong bonds and pave the way for a healthier family dynamic.
Find out what your family can expect while you’re in long term treatment—contact our trained admissions counselors at 866-349-1770.