Explaining Going to Rehab to Children (How-To Guide)
We are so proud of you. You decided to go to rehab for addiction treatment, but there are still some significant hurdles to conquer before admittance. Many addicts are parents and have children of all age ranges, making it challenging to provide age-appropriate truths. You may be wondering how to explain addiction to a child, but it might be easier than you think.
Children often have trouble understanding why a parent must leave for rehab. Involving your child in your recovery teaches them that it’s okay to ask for help and promote honest communication. Call us today at 614-502-6247 to speak with an addiction specialist about the different family therapy options available to you and your family. Family is the most vital support system to have during recovery, and your child can benefit from the education received during family therapy.
Involving Your Child in Your Recovery
It’s never easy to say goodbye to your kids, but leaving for rehabilitation may prove to be a fantastic learning experience for everyone in your family. Addressing how to tell your kids that you’re going to rehab will ultimately rely on your approach. However, how to prepare your children before you go to rehab will depend on the child’s age and needs.
No matter how you got to this point, honesty remains the best policy. Of course, your children do not need to be privy to all details of your struggle, but that is entirely up to you. However, regardless of your child’s age, there are ways to incorporate your children into your recovery.
If you have a teenager, they are more likely to understand what is going on. However, teenagers are going through multiple emotional and hormonal changes, resulting in a turbulent response. Remember, teenagers are hormonal regardless of parental substance use disorders. They are also impressionable, making this experience a significant teaching opportunity. Young children are less likely to understand and will have a hard time letting go. Therefore, keeping young children involved gives them chances to see their parent getting better with their doctors.
How it Helps Them
Children of all ages can learn something from your experience. How to explain going to rehab to a child comes in segments. First of all, it is okay to ask for help. A powerful lesson is to release the human ego and pride and replace it with self-compassion and a desire to be well. You have raised your hand to admit that there is a problem and have asked for help to remedy it. It’s a beautiful thing and a fantastic display of adulthood and honesty of self.
Explaining rehab to a child of an addict might be scary, but if your child is old enough to understand, this lesson will impact them. Teach your child it is okay to ask for help, and they will find the courage to do the same when facing future problems. They can learn that mistakes only remain mistakes when nothing is learned from them. Problems are surmountable as long as you ask for help when you need it. Recognizing teaching opportunities and promoting hope are examples of how to prepare your children before you go to rehab.
Understanding Your Child
Providing age-appropriate truths is where a lot of parental anxiety resides. Therefore, determining your child’s maturity level before discussion will help assess how to approach this delicate information. There are generalized understandings of age versus maturity, but some children are more mature for their age than others. In this regard, identifying your child’s maturity level will help acknowledge your child’s interpretation of what is going on.
When in doubt, ask. It is okay to ask what they believe is going on bluntly, what they are currently feeling, and begin to calm their fears. This stage is a time for calmly explaining that you are not leaving permanently and that you will be returning home. What you say next is dependent on the age of your child and age-appropriate truths.
Explaining rehab to a child involves measuring their level of acceptance. There are age brackets that have general guidelines about how to tell your kids that you’re going to rehab. For instance, children ages 0-2 are likely not to understand what is happening at all, whereas children ages 3-5 can comprehend that mommy or daddy is sick and needs to see a doctor. Children ages 6-12 might understand that mom or dad needs a particular doctor to help their brain become healthy again. Teenagers aged 13-17 can likely understand that you or the other parent have an addiction that needs treatment.
How to explain going to rehab to a child will vary depending on age versus maturity. However, you ultimately know your child better than anyone else. When explaining rehab to a child, try using some of these tips to help you get started:
- “Mommy/Daddy is sick and needs to go see a doctor.”
- “Mommy/Daddy is leaving to go to a special hospital.”
Younger, yet more mature children, may ask what you are sick from. You could try:
- “Mommy/Daddy’s brain is sick and needs to see a very special doctor to make it healthy again.”
Children between the ages of 6-12 might need more comfort in your returning home:
- “Mom/Dad is sick and going to stay at a special hospital just for a little while to help me get healthy again.”
- “Mom/Dad is going away for a while to see a doctor, but will be back home again soon.”
And for older children/teenagers:
- “I need to go stay at a hospital for a while to learn how to be healthy again.”
- “I have an addiction and need to go to rehab for a while, but this is only temporary, and I will come home soon.”
Having the Conversation
However, you decide to get the conversation started, illustrate that you are sick and need professional help to recover. The age-appropriate truth demonstrates honest communication between parent and child, adding support to the foundations of speaking your truth and asking for help. Sick people go to the doctor, and this is no different. Recognize these moments as teachable moments, and how these lessons will follow them into adulthood. Teachable moments such as judgment, compassion, and that mistakes are a part of life. How people react to mistakes is what builds strength in character.
If you need help talking to your child, then contact us today. Our specialists will be able to help you get the support that you need today.
How to explain addiction to a child depends, once again, on the age of the child. Younger children will likely not need this level of explanation; however, teenagers are likely to ask what you need treatment for. Here is a brief description of addiction and how to prepare your children before you go to rehab:
- Inside the brain, messages are sent to the body, telling it what to do, feel, or react to the world around you.
- These messages are sent through things called neurotransmitters.
- The neurotransmitter called dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward.
- Drugs interact with the brain to skyrocket dopamine levels to make you feel really happy.
- The introduction of spiked dopamine levels rewires the brain to “hunt” for as much dopamine as possible, disregarding most everything else.
- The rewired brain now cannot feel pleasure or reward without the drugs to cause the dopamine spike.
- Tolerance to the drug requires the addict to take even higher doses to feel pleasure or reward at all.
- Addiction is when you are a slave to feeding your brain this drug, despite what has happened in your mental absence.
How to Ask For Help
At this point in the discussion, you have covered how you have to leave for a while, come back, and get help with addiction. But somehow, that doesn’t seem to be the end of the conversation.
So how do you provide closure to the conversation? What message do you want your child to take away from this? At this moment, you are teaching them how to be vulnerable. Most parents do not relish the thought of teaching vulnerability; however, it is something your child will face someday. How you handle being vulnerable now will teach them how to react to vulnerability in the future.
Allow this lesson to illuminate how to use vulnerability as a tool to strengthen yourself. Recognizing self-strengths and weaknesses is how people learn to grow. Vulnerability teaches you to love yourself in all of your perfections and imperfections. Learning how to be vulnerable embraces your sensitivities and compassion through self-acceptance and honoring your needs.
Self-love and acceptance are the keys to finding the courage to ask for help when something becomes more prominent than you can handle alone. Love yourself enough to want to feel better because you deserve to. You deserve to feel happy, loved, and celebrated. Demonstrating a level of vulnerability is what brings loved ones to your side. Besides, no one will help you unless you ask for it. So, ask, and you shall receive.
Betterment for the Family
Family therapies are designed to analyze the family of the addict as a whole. Family functionality deals with any number of feelings within family members and coming together by uniting for one another. Lessons like these are an asset to overcome a parent’s addiction together, harmoniously and compassionately.
These family group therapy sessions are an open, safe space to talk about emotions, gain education, ask questions, express concerns, or clarify misunderstandings. A hands-on approach to involving your family in your recovery has a higher likelihood of bonding through this experience.
Therapists, doctors, and medical professionals are present inside rehab facilities to help families cope with the changes that affect the entire family. Family therapies are there to help you learn how to discuss addiction with a child.
There might be feelings of repressed anger for previous events, circumstances, or behavior patterns that need to be addressed. Allow this safe space to remain safe by refraining from jumping in when they are speaking. Processing emotions are difficult for adults; therefore, try to remember what it was like being your child’s age. How would you have responded if your parent were going to rehab for addiction? Maybe you had a parent who needed substance use disorder treatment and can better relate to your child.
Ultimately, it is compassion that is the bottom line. Education and compassion are the crucial steps to coping with a family member who is addicted to drugs. Allow this experience to be a life lesson in compassion, non-judgmental behavior, and finding love in all situations. Let us help you become educated. Call us now, and start your happier and healthier life tomorrow.
Promoting Healthy Families
How to tell your kids that you’re going to rehab is not a one-size-fits-all discussion. Family therapies recognize that each family member may display different emotional responses, all of which are valid. Family therapies are a fantastic way to alleviate you of some stress, as therapists specialize in dealing with emotional disturbances among families with addiction. You do not need to have all the answers, and therapists will help you cope with your family’s emotional weight throughout your time in rehab.
The promotion of healthy families is the goal of family therapy. View these meetings as a chance for your children and family to express how they feel and begin to process their emotions, both negative and positive. You are likely to experience at least some backlash, but each person can have feelings and has the right to process them as needed.
However, once those emotions are out in the open, they can begin to heal. Perhaps your child is angry with you, that is okay. In time and with therapeutic assistance, your family will grow stronger together because you allowed them to become part of your journey.
This experience is new, but it does not have to be scary. Instilling hope and inspiration in your child will, in turn, reinforce your decision to become healthy, not just for yourself, but also for your children. They deserve you, and you are still a good parent.
You might be worried about the feelings of guilt, embarrassment, or shame within yourself. Remember, good parents often question whether or not they are good parents. It is in the self-analysis of your parenting that makes you a good parent. Poor parenting is when the parents do not invest in their children, whereas good parents always try to invest in their children. You are a good parent because you continue to strive to be. Your decision to become sober is proof of that.
Children often have trouble understanding why a parent must leave for rehab. Involving your child in your recovery teaches them that it’s okay to ask for help and promote honest communication. Call us today at 614-502-6247 to speak with an addiction specialist about the different family therapy options available to you and your family. Discussing tips, tricks, and techniques on how to explain going to rehab to a child with a family therapist can better prepare you to start a conversation with your kids. Family is the most vital support system to have during recovery, and your child can benefit from the education received during family therapy.
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