How to tell a child that you are going to rehab for treatment

Once you are able to fully admit to yourself that you have a problem, you have begun on the right path; deciding this takes a lot of conviction, courage, and strength. However, it is common for parents to feel they should not tell their child/children that they have an addiction and are going to rehab for treatment. If this is your belief as well, try to let that go. As much as you may have tried to hide your addiction from your children, they are not as naïve as us adults believe, and are very aware of the issues/problems inside the home. By your decision to go to rehab for treatment, you will give them hope for the future. However, by you leaving home for an extended amount of time, it is likely for your child to become confused or even scared. This is why it is important to sit down with the child and explain to them, in an age appropriate way, that you are going to rehab for treatment.

Now let’s discuss some child friendly ways to do so below.

Explain Addiction

When sitting down with your children, begin by explaining what addiction is and how it is considered to be a medical illness. As soon as you explain that you have an illness, immediately tell them that you are going to a special place where good people will help you get better. By telling the child this, they will not become scared that you are sick and may die.

Be sure during this time that you are speaking to them in an age appropriate manner and in a way that they can understand. You may ask them if they are aware that you have an illness, called addiction. If they answer ‘yes’, ask them to explain how they know and allow them to express their thoughts about it.

Talk About the Rehab

It is likely that your children will want to know about where you are going. Discuss with them what the rehab center will be like; you may want to show them pictures or a brochure. Tell them what you will be doing during the day: for example, if you will be going to group meetings or talking to a ‘special person’ or counselor about your addiction.

Explain to them that you will be in a safe place with good people taking care of you. If you know the dates of when you are leaving for treatment and when you will return, it may help to show the child a calendar and point out these dates.

Explain Communication While you are at Rehab

Once the child understands that you are leaving to go to rehab for treatment they may want to know how they can talk to you. Let them know that rehabs have rules and you may not be able to call them too often, especially in the beginning. Make it a point that you don’t want to leave them, but you do want to get better, so you will call them as much as possible. Remember to tell them that as soon as you are better you will come home straight away so you can be with them.

Manage Your Emotions

It is understandable that you may become upset while talking to your children about going to rehab for treatment, but try to do your best to manage your emotions. Crying or becoming extremely sad will not help the situation, and may make it harder on the child. If you feel that you are reaching a point where you will not be able to keep it together, take a deep breath, regain your composure, and continue. At the same time, be sure the child understands that it is okay for them to have feelings of sadness or anger and that you will listen to them if they have anything to say.

Completing Treatment and Returning Home

Upon returning home from rehab, although your children may be joyous that you are home, it may also be a difficult time. The child may not know what to expect or may not know what you will be like now that you are sober. You may also have a difficult time adjusting to this new life, in this case, be sure to allow any necessary space for not only your children, but also yourself. Most importantly, remember that things will get better, much better; always take it one day at a time. Additionally, family therapy is offered in most area throughout the world, and this is an option that may be useful.

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