3 Tips for Explaining Addiction to Your Child


Whether you, one of your close family members, or friends is an addict, or if you want your kid to be informed on the topic, explaining addiction to a child can be difficult. How do you know where to begin? Approaching the subject of addiction is tricky and you must handle it with an appropriate amount of caution.

How can you explain your addiction to a child? Do you find a segue into the conversation to bring up the topic? How do you help them understand? There are books to help explain addiction that you can find at your local library or bookstore — like the Lousiville Free Public Library — that can help. Here are a few other tips to help you as well.

1. Ensure Your Conversation is Age Appropriate

Gauge your child’s age when considering the best way to start the conversation with them. When kids are young, they often think everything is their fault when things are bad. Assure them they are not to blame and there is nothing they can do to help the addiction. Allow them to feel their feelings and express them so you can guide them on how to heal.

Explain that addiction is a disease someone is suffering from and they didn’t cause it. As kids age, ensure they understand and know you’re there to support them. Try to stay on their level. Have open and honest communication so they know they can talk to you about anything.

Older kids tend to host a lot of resentment they don’t know how to manage or express. Be prepared for denial or confusion when you explain your addiction to a child. Try to have this particular conversation when your kid is relaxed, so they are more receptive to what you’re telling them and are comfortable opening up about the issue.

2. Support and Encourage Your Child

If your child has someone close to them who struggles with addiction, ensure you support and encourage them in every way possible. Suggest self-confidence boosters that can build their self-esteem and teach them resilience to obstacles out of their control.

Daily exercise, healthy eating habits and a positive thought process can help your kid develop self-esteem and build their self-confidence. Their newfound strength will help them tackle obstacles and prepare them for peer pressures about using alcohol or other substances. Living with an addict can be isolating no matter how old you are, so emphasize to your child they are not alone.

Plenty of other kids have to deal with addiction, so they shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to talk about it when it bothers them. Ensure your child knows you are always there for them. If they don’t feel comfortable talking to you, provide them with a list of people they can trust, like a school counselor, teacher or other family members.

Sometimes it helps to talk to an objective party that isn’t closely involved. An outside perspective can help kids feel more comfortable and encourage them to open up about their feelings. You must provide support and encouragement to seek counseling when kids are exposed to addiction. It can be challenging for them to express their emotions and you don’t want them to harbor those feelings.

Plenty of resources like books to help explain addiction can also come in handy. Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports to keep their mind occupied. Physical activity can also act as a healthy outlet for their negative emotions.

3. Make Connections They Understand

When explaining addiction to a child, ensure that you make connections they understand. If you are trying to explain the illness to a young kid, make a connection with cookies or candy — something they can relate to.

Using powerful metaphors can help your child understand how addiction can take hold of their loved one. When you eat more sweets than you are supposed to, it can make you ill. Some people can’t stop themselves, while others learn their lesson. Paint them a similar picture and help ask questions to ensure it’s all making sense to them.

With older children, you can use peer pressure as an example. Something like doing things to appear cool to their friends or gaining acceptance in comparison to addiction will typically do the trick. Ensure your kids know how to refuse drugs and alcohol when offered to them.

Wanting to fit in is a natural part of growth, but stressing how important it is to protect yourself is vital to your kid’s understanding of peer pressure. Knowing how to say no can save your child’s life, so help them come up with ways they feel comfortable refusing ideas they deem dangerous. Saying no can also persuade other kids to reject confidently as well.

Explaining Addiction To a Child

Kids are more observant than people often give them credit for. If you’re wondering how to explain addiction to a child, be honest with them and don’t try to hide it. They may try to come up with solutions or ideas about addiction that could be far from the truth. Guide them in the right direction by talking to them about it. These conversations can be challenging to say the least, but they are worth it for the benefit of your kid.

Beth is the Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She is passionate about writing about parenting, nutrition, mental health and fitness. In her spare time, Beth enjoys going for runs with her dog and trying out new recipes.


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