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How to Talk to Your Child About Addiction & What to Say

Serious father talking to teen son
When talking to your child about addiction, make sure they’re paying attention and understand that your drug use isn’t their fault.


Addiction affects everyone in your life, whether you mean for it to or not. You may have convinced yourself for a while that no one else saw how hungover you were or noticed how you’d slur your words while talking. But as your substance abuse increased, the more obvious your addiction became to everyone around you – including your own child.

From seeing you passed out after nights of drinking to feeling neglected or scared when you’d yell at them while intoxicated or high, your child suffers the consequences of your addiction. But it’s possible to help them understand and begin to heal the damage done.

Before heading to treatment, it’s important for you to talk to your child about your addiction. This post will give you tips on how to talk about your substance abuse with your child and what you should and should not say.

5 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Your Addiction

  1. Be Honest About Your Struggles
    It’s won’t be easy for your child to understand what you’ve gone through. In fact, you may not even fully understand why you started drinking or using drugs. Acknowledge that you’ve made mistakes and that you know your substance abuse has hurt them. Try to open up about what you’ve personally struggled with and explain that your addiction is a disease that requires professional treatment.
  2. Let Them Share Their Feelings
    Your child is bound to be overwhelmed with feelings like pain, depression and sadness. Give them this time to share how they’re feeling and the hurt you caused them while you were abusing drugs. This isn’t going to be easy and they may even lash out at you, but it’s necessary that your child work through these feelings in order to heal.
  3. Remind Them it Isn’t Their Fault
    Loved ones of those suffering from addiction often blame themselves for the substance abuse. During all the times you were drunk or high, your child may have wondered what they did to make you like this. When talking to them about your addiction, make it crystal clear that they aren’t to blame for your substance abuse. Even if you had claimed they were the cause in the past, apologize for those moments and make sure they know your addiction isn’t their fault.
  4. Wait for the Right Time to Talk to Your Child
    Timing really is everything, especially when you’re talking to your child about your addiction. Find a moment where your child isn’t distracted by schoolwork or another stressful, time consuming activity. You’ll also want to ensure there’s a quiet place for the two of you to talk where you won’t be disturbed. If both of you can go into this meeting with clear minds, you’ll be more likely to have a productive conversation that can begin to mend the damage done to your relationship.
  5. Let Them Ask Questions
    Your child is going to be curious and have questions, even if it doesn’t seem like they do at first. Make it very clear at the beginning of the conversation and remind them multiple times during your talk that it’s okay for them to ask questions. Answer them as honestly as you can and do your best to use metaphors or other connections that will be easier for them to understand and grasp.

What to Say and Not to Say When Talking to Your Child About Addiction

You want to be honest, but you don’t want to say something inappropriate or scary. You want to be open with them, but you don’t want to give them the wrong idea. Here are some messaging points to help you say the right things and avoid the wrong ones:

What to Say to Your Child

  • Apologize for the pain you’ve caused them
  • Take responsibility for your actions, but teach them how addiction is a disease
  • Tell them that it’s okay that they feel the way that they do
  • Talk about addiction treatment and your goals to recover
  • Reinforce how much you love and care about them
  • Remind them that your addiction isn’t their fault and they couldn’t have done anything to stop it
  • Share how you plan to recover from substance abuse and want to fix your relationship with them

And don’t forget that giving your child plenty of time to talk is just as important as your time to talk, if not more so. It’s absolutely necessary that your child feels like you’re listening to them and respect their thoughts and feelings.

What Not to Say to Your Child

  • Don’t give them graphic details about your drinking and drug use
  • Don’t use scare tactics
  • Don’t talk about all the upsides of drinking and using drugs, giving off the impression that you don’t want to get treatment and recover
  • Don’t encourage them to drink or use drugs
  • Don’t have this conversation with them while you’re drunk or high
  • Don’t lie to them when they ask you questions

Recover from Addiction at The Raleigh House

Are you looking for a treatment center that can help you recover from addiction and give you a second chance to have a healthy, happy relationship with your child? At The Raleigh House, we have over 10 years of experience helping people like you detox from your substance abuse, get to the bottom of your addiction in residential treatment and rebuild your life in outpatient treatment. Our mission is to help you find lasting recovery and regain a loving relationship with your child and family.

To get started, fill out our form or contact us now to get in touch with one of our friendly admissions team members.

Call Now: 720-891-4657

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