How to Tell My Children that I am Going to Rehab for Addiction Treatment?

Most parents want to be a role model for their children and want to be healthy to watch them grow up. If you are reading this article, you might be one of them. If you are ready to start on your recovery journey and you are going to be away from your kids for a while, depending on their ages it is important to explain, in a child-friendly language, that you are going to a safe place to get well. At this point, they will most likely have questions for you. “Get well? Are you sick?” Depending on their ages, you might want to ask them if they ever heard about an illness called addiction. If they answer yes, ask them what they know and how they feel about it. You can then either explain it to them or have them share their thoughts. Remember that if your children are younger than 10 years old they still view the world from a “me-centered” perspective and they might blame themselves or believe they did something wrong to cause the addiction. Make sure they understand that they didn’t cause your addiction and there’s nothing they could do to prevent you from drinking or using drugs. Being open with your children about entering rehab will most likely give them a sense of relief and hope.

By talking to your children at their level, they will have a better understanding of your situation and know that you are going away for a little while so that you can get the help you need to be healthy again. To put your children at ease you can share photos of the place you are going for treatment through a brochure or website. In addition, explaining how your day will play out with recreational activities and that you are going to be making new friends and having caring people looking after you, reinforces the message that you are going to a safe place to feel better. Of course, if your children are older, this conversation will be different. For instance, if you have teenagers they might deny you have an issue with substance use. Even if they experience daily chaos and their lives have turned upside-down because of it. On the other hand, you might have a teen that is resentful of your addiction. Either way, you should be sensitive to how your addiction has impacted their lives. Approach this conversation with your teenager with empathy. Ask questions so that you understand their perspective, and if they blame themselves, reassure them that they are not at fault. Make sure they understand that your addiction is not their responsibility.

You also can tell your children that lots of other kids have parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. So while what they’re experiencing is extremely difficult, they aren’t the only one who is going through this experience. Just knowing that there are others who are feeling the same pain and confusion can be comforting to them. Encourage them to talk to someone that they trust — a teacher, counselor, foster parent, or members of a peer support group such as Alateen.

Addiction Is a Family Disease

At Florida Center for Recovery, our Family Intensive Therapy is part of the range of therapeutic options we offer to help families recover. To learn more about our inpatient rehab programs, reach out to us at (800) 643-4005

For an informational brochure about our addiction treatment center and the programs we offer, you may visit our online brochure.