Helping Children Heal During Recovery
Substance abuse impacts not only the individuals using, but also friends and families. This includes the smallest members of your family: your children. It can be especially difficult for a child to watch their mother or father struggle with an addiction. The constant ups and downs at home can leave children feeling confused and hopeless.
More than 28 million Americans are children of alcoholics. These individuals are more vulnerable to developing an array of emotional and behavioral issues later on in life.
Oftentimes, an unstable environment may lead to other problems in children. For example, growing up in a home with an addicted parent may bring about feelings of shame, guilt, and self-blame. While children may be told it’s not their fault, it’s sometimes hard for them to believe or even fully understand.
When family challenges arise, there’s no exact way of telling how a child will respond. Several ways a child may react to their parent’s addiction include:
- Doing poorly in school
- Withdrawing from friends and activities
- Taking responsibility for siblings or parents
- Trying to be perfect for everyone around them
- Getting angry or hostile about life
- Becoming depressed and submissive
Once you’ve decided to seek treatment for substance abuse, you should talk to your child about the recovery process. While it’s not an easy conversation to have, it’s a necessary one.
To help your child cope while you’re in recovery, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics developed the “7 Cs.” They aim to encourage children and help them recognize that their parent is getting the help they need.
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The “7 Cs” To Help A Child Cope With Addiction
The “7 Cs” give children tips on coping while a parent is in recovery. They state: I didn’t cause it. I can’t cure it. I can’t control it. I can take better care of myself by communicating my feelings, making healthy choices, and celebrating me.
Here’s a closer look at each of the “7 Cs” and how to discuss them with your child:
I Didn’t Cause It
Your child didn’t cause you to lose control, say mean things, or act in an inappropriate manner. It’s important for children to understand that they couldn’t prevent your addiction. How you acted when you were under the influence was not reflective of anything your child said or did.
I Can’t Cure It
An addiction is a disease. It doesn’t mean you were a bad person. Explain to your child that recovery takes time and hard work, but it’s helping you become a happier and healthier person. You can go into some detail about treatment as well as how specialists are there every step of the way.
I Can’t Control It
When you’re sad or upset, your child will do anything possible to make you feel better. However, when it comes to addiction, your child couldn’t control or stop you from abusing substances. Make sure your child understands that they are not the reason why you used a certain substance. Your addiction was not your child’s fault.
I Can Take Better Care Of Myself
Make a list with your child on ways they can take care of themselves. For example, children can stay healthy by eating good foods, brushing their teeth, and going to bed on time. Encouraging your child to help take care of their body and overall health instills good habits. Plus, it helps boost their confidence and their outlook on life.
By Communicating My Feelings
Children may try to hide their feelings or shy away from the topic of addiction when it’s mentioned. Just like adults, children need an outlet where they can express what they think and how they feel. Choose someone trustworthy – a close family member, friend, therapist, or teacher – who is willing to talk to them and be a listening ear.
Making Healthy Choices
Motivate your child to take care of their mind and body. How they feel inside and out affects their happiness. Let them have fun by playing with friends, going on a bike ride, joining activities at school, or spending time outdoors. A healthy body, mind, and spirit play an important role in keeping your child’s mental health in check.
And Celebrating Me
Everyone, including children, deserves to take time out to celebrate themselves. For children, these triumphs can be related to doing well in school or helping out around the house. Some ideas for celebrating your child may involve letting them watch their favorite TV show or movie, taking them shopping for something they really want, or letting them have the sleepover they’ve been begging for.
It’s Never Too Early To Talk To Your Child
As a parent, you play a vital role in talking to your child about the process of your addiction recovery. During your conversation, allow them to speak up and ask questions. Be as open and as honest as possible, and make sure they understand that seeking help will enable you to be the best parent possible.
By keeping an open line of communication with your child, you will reassure them and help them feel safe. Find out more about how to discuss addiction treatment with children.
Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing.
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