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Should You Tell Your Kids about Past Addiction?


January 26, 2018

Is addiction in your genes? Unfortunately, according to Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center, “multiple lines of research show that addiction is influenced by genes.” Genes and environmental factors converge to make addiction happen. Should you talk with your children about your past addiction?

Strong Connections Help All of You 

Strong family connections play an important role in recovery and avoiding new addictions. Family members who are involved and supportive help you avoid looking to addictive substances when you feel lonely, stressed, or sad. They can help you find solutions to social situations, support you as you return to work or look for employment, and assist you if you have other health issues connected to your drug addiction. Talking with your children about your addiction not only helps them understand you more deeply, it also encourages them to talk with you about their challenges, making it harder for them to go down the path of addiction.

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Talking with your teens about addiction can help them open up to you about their struggles.

Use Age-Appropriate Concepts 

It can be hard to communicate with children about addiction if they are too young to learn about some of the more difficult parts of your life. You will need to consider what you want to share and how you would like to share this information. For example, a preschooler may just need to know that his parent does not drink alcohol because it could make her sick. Teens can learn more about the specific challenges you faced, how they impacted you, and how you have overcome them. For teens who are considering experimenting with drugs but have not told you about this, your discussion could shift their thinking. One mother on App states that “had I been able to express that I went through these same troubles I feel like he could have opened up and we could have gone through this together.”

Let Your Children Know That You Are a Strong Part of the Family 

Children need strong role models and support so that they can become successful adults. If your addiction is long in the past or your children were too young to remember, then your discussion could come as a surprise. Your children could feel worried that you will become addicted again.

Reassure them that you are in recovery and let them know in an age-appropriate way about the various ways that you have support systems in place to prevent you from relapsing into addiction. For instance, if you attend AA meetings, you could talk about how those have helped you.

Reassure Children That You Support Them 

If your children are old enough to learn more about your history, your family’s history, and the genetic components of addiction, they may feel worried that they will “catch” it as well. Your role is to reassure them that you and other family members will help them avoid addiction and will help family members if it happens to them. Talk about your successes and share the fact that, while addiction is an ongoing process of recovery, it is something that people can successfully manage over time.

Make Plans for the Future Together 

After you have talked with your children about your addiction, bring the conversation around to plans for a positive future. For example, if you are in drug recovery and have just come out of rehab, then you could make a plan to reconnect and strengthen your relationships with your children.

You could set a date to do an activity that is particularly special with that child or set up regular family activities that form strong bonds and prevent you and your children from moving into addiction. For instance, if your children are involved in a sport, you could commit to attending their games regularly and informally practicing with them outside of regular practices. These positive life practices and family patterns will help both you and your children resist addiction.

The professionals at Advanced Recovery Systems know that recovery from alcohol and drug addiction is a process. We are here to support you in that process in the long term as you build a life free of addiction. For more information about how to communicate with your kids about addiction issues, contact us today.

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