When a parent or older relative is abusing substances or alcohol and must enter an addiction treatment centre, the situation is difficult for a young child to understand.
Why must this parent or this uncle leave for, what is to a child, a long period of time? In addition, the child might question if he or she did something wrong to prompt the adult’s absence.
Watching a loved one enter addiction treatment is hard for adults to accept, and even harder for children to do the same. If you have to explain addiction and substance abuse rehab to a child, keep the following ideas in mind. Doing so will ensure that the child does not place blame on him or herself, and understands that it is okay to talk about addiction treatment.
Addiction is a disease
Explain to him or her that addiction is a disease, and that abusing a substance or alcohol does not mean that someone is a ‘bad’ person. In addition, let them know that sometimes an adult who is using drugs or alcohol can do hurtful things, but that they never intend to cause the child pain.
Addiction is not your fault
In addition to removing any sense of blame from a parent or older relative, it is important that children understand they are not the reason for their loved one’s abuse. They might think if they had done better on an exam, or cleaned their room every day, that their parent wouldn’t abuse substances. Make sure that the child understands that his or her actions are entirely separate of the adult’s.
You are not alone
It is important that a child not feel a sense of isolation or abandonment when he or she realizes that a parent must enter substance abuse rehab. Let him or her know that there are millions of people in the world who suffer from this same disease, but that there are also millions of counsellors and doctors who exist to help the addicted through substance abuse rehab and addiction treatment.
Having an open conversation with a child about a loved one’s addiction will lay the groundwork for a healthy relationship between the two when the adult returns home after addiction treatment. To a child, a conversation about addiction can be like a lifting fog, and will help him or her weather the transition.