How to Talk to Your Kids About Addiction

Man hugging his daughter with his wife smiling in the background

Your Past Does Not Define You, But Your Story Can Help Your Children //

A mother wrote into The Guardian’s “Ask Annalisa Barbieri” column with the following question:

How do I teach my son to not take drugs when I did myself?

Annalisa’s advice is a great reminder for anyone struggling with addiction. Ms. Barbieri encourages the mother, who has been clean for 24 years, to remember her past addiction does not define her.

As far as talking to kids about addiction and other taboo topics, Annalisa’s advice was to talk about the subject dispassionately and factually without “turn[ing] it into a big drama.” She said your honesty and personal experience can help deter your children from using drugs in the future.

Other highlights of the advice column include:

  • Don’t be ashamed
  • Focus on what you’ve managed to achieve
  • Don’t keep secrets
  • Try to normalize the conversation
  • Make your own peace with what happened
  • Forgive yourself
  • Be honest about your regrets
  • Allow for questions
  • Admit when you don’t know something

Annalisa also spoke to Rebecca Harris, a family psychotherapist who specializes in addiction. Harris highlighted the fact that many people who work in recovery have their own experiences with addiction. These experiences make them better suited to the job, meaning parents who have experienced addiction are well suited to talk to their kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, as well.

In Harris’ words:

Think about how many people who work with drugs and with addicts have been addicts themselves. They are much better placed to work in that world. To be able to say, ‘Yes, I did this, yes, I regret it. Here are the reasons I did it, here’s what I discovered. And here’s why it wasn’t OK and why I would prefer you didn’t do this.’ I think that’s really powerful.”

When it comes to bringing up the conversation, Harris stresses normalcy. She recommends talking to your kids while out for a walk and when they are in a decent mood. Harris says it’s as simple as asking, “Have you learned about drugs in school? I’ve got a bit of experience of that on my own.”

The final reminder in the column is to make the experience about your child.

Some ex-addicts aim to heal through their children’s forgiveness,” writes Annalisa, “But that’s not needed here.”

You Are Not Your Addiction

One of the things our team loves the most about Annalisa’s advice is the point it emphasizes: no matter where you are in your recovery journey, you are more than your addiction.

At Decision Point Center, we subscribe to this philosophy wholeheartedly. This means we provide treatment for the whole person, and we are committed to helping people achieve lifelong sobriety. Compassion is the key to recovery, and we have it in bounds.

If you’re ready to get help with drug or alcohol addiction, hope starts here. Call us at (844) 292-5010 today or contact us online for more information.

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