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How to Discuss Opioid Addiction Treatment with Children

by Cristina Villalon

Children of parents with substance use disorder are often exposed to trauma throughout their caretaker’s illness before they choose to enter treatment; however, it’s impossible to shield kids from all negative experiences in life. While elders may be tempted to avoid these serious conversations, talking about opioid addiction with their kids is a vital step towards getting better. Provided that the children are at an age where they can grasp the basics of the concept, having these difficult discussions can help mend the traumas the children have gone through and set them on the road to healing with their loved ones.

There’s no one way to deal with conversations about substance use disorder and treatment with a child, but there are some helpful tips to make the talk productive, informative, and encouraging for both parents and their kids.

Make a plan

Parents are urged to make a list of topics to cover when talking about opioid addiction and upcoming treatment. This list should also include pertinent information and details that could be important to the household should any questions arise. Kids should also be encouraged to ask questions, so a list of talking points can help keep the conversation on track.

Pick a good time

Parents will likely know when their children are more receptive to information; some will choose to have this discussion over dinner, while others may go outside for a walk in nature. The most important thing is to make sure that the child is the center of attention during the talk with minimal distractions.

Tell the truth

Simply telling a child that their loved one is “sick” and is “going to get help” may work for certain young ages, but kids know more than adults realize. When a parent can be truthful with their child about their illness and the steps they are taking to get healthy, it can be the beginning of a bonding process vital for the parent while rebuilding their lives in recovery.

Be reassuring

Upon hearing serious or difficult news, children subconsciously need to know that they’re going to be safe, and when their parent reassures them, they trust the person with their lives. If a parent can reassure their child that they will do everything they can to treat their illness and return to a home life that is positive and functional, it will give their children hope and help ease anxieties.

Parents facing substance use disorder are often plagued with guilt and doubts about their abilities as caretakers to their children. While addiction prioritizes substance use in their brain, many also attempt to juggle home and family life and, often, even a career. When it comes time to move towards treatment and recovery, it can be challenging to discuss with their loved ones, especially kids. Nevertheless, it’s a meaningful conversation that needs to be had and can benefit both parents and children as they embark on the healing journey towards recovery.

At Health Care Resource Centers, we are proud to support individuals struggling with opioid use disorder through MAT and substance abuse counseling. If you are ready to take your first steps toward hope and healing, contact HCRC today.

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