Having kids can be especially painful when struggling with addiction. Nobody wants their kids to see them drunk or high. Nobody intends to emotionally hurt their children but it happens and kids will remember.
Ignoring the issue is not a good idea as your kids will feel like it’s not their place to ask questions or offer suggestions. They will be confused and scared so it’s better to tackle the topic head on.
Age Appropriate Conversations
Babies and toddlers may not understand addiction but they can certainly feel the difference between a sober parent and a non-sober parent. While the conversation may not be in words it’s important to not to parent your child if you are drunk or high. If you find yourself around alcohol or drugs you can start by pointing at the object and saying “icky” or make a sour face. For example, “Mommy isn’t going to drink this now because it’s icky.” Don’t let your little ones believe that you under the influence is the better parent.
As children get a little older you can certainly address the topic a little more in depth. For example, you can say, “I don’t want to drink beer but sometimes I can’t help it because I have an addiction. I am trying hard to stop.” This type of communication opens up the door for further conversation and answers the question the child was thinking in their head, ‘why does my daddy drink so much beer?’
Teenagers need to hear your explanations as well. By the time they are teenagers they know when you are drunk or high and they are probably experimenting with drugs and alcohol themselves. This is a good opportunity to open up to them about how hard it is to quit which might give them some valuable insight when they are facing decisions themselves.