How to Tell Your Kids You’re Going to a Drug Rehab Center

Are you headed to a drug rehab center? Not sure what to tell your kids? Read on to learn how to tell your kids you’re going to rehab.

You’re a superhero and you know everything, right?

Kids, tend to see their parents as perfect, all-knowing people. They expect Mom or Dad to have all the answers to some of life’s biggest questions.

It’s your job, and privilege, to stand by your child’s side as they learn about the world. Your guidance is what helps them mature and grow into happy, healthy adults one day.

So, how do you talk to your kids about going to a drug rehab center? If you’re supposed to be a superhero, won’t you be letting them down?

Fear, guilt, shame, and worry, are all feelings that can surround an addiction. It’s easy to feel like you’re all alone, yet this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Did you know 23.5 Million Americans are currently addicted to alcohol and drugs? Addiction is a ruthless disease and it doesn’t have anything to do with being a good or bad person.

If you or a loved one is going to a rehabilitation center, your kids will have a ton of questions. Read on to find out what to say, and when, to have the best conversation.

Age Appropriate Conversations

How old are the children you’ll be talking with? Before you start planning the details of your conversation, first take into account the child’s age.

Serious conversations with children under 10 years of age can be particularly challenging. Instead of seeing the bigger picture of why you’re leaving, they tend to focus on the present.

If your child does protest you leaving, it helps to see things from their point of view. Here are some details you should exclude younger children from hearing.

  • Drug Names
  • Length of your addiction
  • Expressing fear or doubt

A lot of parents find it comforting to express their addiction as a type of sickness. Telling your small child, “Daddy/Mommy is sick right now”, can help them empathize.

They’ve surely had a time in their life they can recall being sick. You can remind them how the doctors and medicines helped them get all better.

Then you can explain to them how you are leaving to go see some doctors who can help you with your grownup problem. You can choose to use the words, “I have an addiction problem”, but stay away from expressing any fears you have.

You’ll want to avoid telling your kids things like, “I need help, otherwise I’m afraid of what will happen.” Telling kids about the dangerous side effects of using alcohol, or drugs, isn’t wise for this conversation. Keep it simple, let them know you’re sick, you need help, and you’re going to get it.

If you do decide to use the word “sick” to express why you need help, make sure the kids know it’s not contagious. You don’t want them to be worrying they’ll be getting sick, or that another family member may fall ill at any moment.


Why Age Matters

You may feel your child is more mature than others around their age. This may be true when it comes to school work, chores, or other aspects of their life.

Many parents even joke that their child is 8 going on 18, because of how mature they act. Yet, when children have to deal with complex family circumstances, it’s best to keep their actual age in mind.

It isn’t until around 4-5 years of age children begin to realize there’s a world outside of themselves. Up until this point, they think of everything through a self-centered filter, where everything revolves around them.

By the time a child reaches 6-7 years of age they can empathize with other peoples feelings. As they grow into 8 and 9-year-olds, these abilities continue to increase.

Yet, they still see things in a black and white kind of way. In their world, things are either good or bad, right or wrong.

They have a limited number of emotional tools and need you to do the heavy lifting. Rather than telling young children, they are wrong, allow them to express all of their feelings.

Finding the Right Time

When’s the right time to talk about the drug rehab center? You know your children’s schedule and lifestyle better than anyone. When considering a time to have your talk, take into account the following factors.

  • What time of day is your kids most alert?
  • When will you have 2-3 hours available?
  • What atmosphere would be the safest for your talk?

After taking your children’s schedule into account, think about your own. Avoid having the conversation on days you know you’ll be particularly tired from work or family outings.

Even though you’ll only be sitting down and talking, you’ll still need to have a full tank of energy. Being mentally alert, and present is the best way you can serve your kids.

Once you decide on a time, you can begin planning the details of your conversation. Next, we’ll explain the importance of giving your kids details about the center.

Give Details About the Drug Rehab Center

Ever wonder the reason children ask, “why, all the time. Children are by nature, curious creatures and want to explore the world around them.

What do you do when you’ve answered the “why” but they still want to know more? The best solution is to give your children the appropriate details.

Some appropriate details about this circumstance you can share, are details about the rehab center. Let your kids know a lot of facts about the center, you can even show them a few photos of the location.

Here’s a list of some of the details you should give curious children.

  • Activities available at the center
  • Visiting rules
  • How you’ll be communicating with them
  • Where the center’s located
  • How many people you’ll be with
  • What type of room you’ll be in
  • How many doctors work there

The more your kids know about the center, the more involved they’ll feel. When they’re picturing you getting help, they’ll have an idea of what to picture.

No matter what you want to avoid making the center seem like a mysterious place. Your kids will be more at peace having a realistic idea of where you are, rather than a fantasy.

Know Yourself What to Expect

Make sure you also have a clear understanding of what to expect during your stay. You’ll want to know all of the program’s features and benefits before you arrive. The more you know, the calmer you’ll be. When you’re calm, your kids will instantly be more calm and open to discussion as well.

Finally, after deciding what details you’ll share, create a script. The script can be a list of bullet points, listing items you want to cover with your kids. Having a list of what you want to say will help keep you on track.

Not only is it important to speak to your kids at the right time, and include details, but you’ll also want to watch the length of the conversations. To avoid lecturing your kids, or rambling on, try to stick to the bullet point list as closely as possible.

Control Your Emotions

You finally feel ready to sit down and have a talk about rehab with your kids. You’ve created a script, found the perfect time, and you know why you’re doing this.

The next step is to now learn how to control your emotions. As you begin speaking with your kids, you may encounter surprise feelings. These feelings can be strong emotions you weren’t even aware you were experiencing beneath the surface.

Yet, once you start talking about a difficult subject, the surprise feelings can start to surface. Instead of finding yourself caught off guard by overwhelming emotions, have a plan for how you’ll deal with them. Here are a few tips for dealing with strong emotions:

  • Take a deep calming breath
  • Pause before speaking
  • Tune into your feelings
  • Remember what’s real

Tuning into your feelings means identifying the emotion you’re having. When shame or guilt rears its ugly head you might think to yourself, “I’ve always been a failure.”

Yet, you know in your heart of hearts this isn’t true. What’s true and real is your an imperfect human, and everybody needs help in life.

Before you blurt out to your kids that your sorry, or sad, breathe and gather yourself. Remind yourself what you’re the ultimate goal is here. Your goal is to inform your kids about what’s happening and provide reassurance.

With the reality of what’s happening in front of you, it’ll be easier for you to control surprise feelings.

What to Do During Break Downs

Ideally, your kids won’t even notice your struggling with tough emotions. Yet, the ideal version isn’t the most likely scenario to occur.

It’s highly likely you’ll feel waves of emotions throughout your talk, and you’ll need a plan if you start to feel like you can’t contain yourself.

Here’s what you can do if you start talking with your kids, and can’t control your feelings.

  • Tell the kids you need a short time out
  • Find a quiet or private space
  • Write down your feelings
  • Go for a short vigorous walk
  • Call a friend

The moment you start to feel better, start preparing to go finish the conversation. You have to take care of how you’re feeling while still being selfless during the conversation itself. Once you’re ready to resume the conversation, stand guard, watching your emotions.

If you start to feel a wave of fear or guilt bubbling up, immediately start reminding yourself what’s real. The faster you act on negative emotions, the easier it is to prevent them from building up.

However, if you’re a naturally emotional person, you might not be able to restrain yourself. If you need extra help, ask a friend to assist you during the conversation. Prep your friend on the points you want to cover.

Rebuilding Relationships After Addiction

Now you know more about how to discuss a trip to the drug rehab center with your children. Remember, you’re making a brave decision, and your entire family will be stronger because of it.

Can you imagine your life post addiction? You may be wondering how you’re going to be able to rebuild relationships or feel happy, joyous, and free again? Pathfinders Recovery Center is here to help you through every step of your journey.

We help clients who are battling addictions with alcohol, heroin, prescription pills and more. Are you seeking a way to break free from your past and build a bright new future?

At PathFinders Recovery Center you’ll have a team of experts who care about your success. We’ve been helping clients struggling with addiction for decades and we know how torturous it can be.

Our positive, supportive environment, is a vital part of early recovery. Let us show you how we can help. Reach out to one of our team members using our contact us page today.


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  • (877) 224-0761
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