How to Talk to My Kids About My Recovery

If you’re recovering from a drug addiction as a parent, telling your children about your recovery may be the hardest conversation that you have. In the long term, however, it is important that you have this conversation, and your kids will likely come to appreciate your honesty. If you’re not sure where to begin, start with the guidelines below.

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Start the Recovery Process

In the past, you may or may not have promised your children that you’d get clean and sober. Either way, begin by taking active steps toward your recovery. When you take real, measurable steps toward sobriety, you’ll foster a sense of trust with your kids and send the message that you’re serious about your recovery. They’ll be able to see that you’re willing to put your words into action. Some of your options for first steps include:

  • Attending a support group
  • Getting therapy
  • Choosing a rehab
  • Choosing a detox facility

If you’re not sure where to start or whether rehab is right for you, start by calling 800-492-QUIT for advice.

Plan Ahead

Conversations about addiction can become emotionally charged in a very short time. When you plan ahead, you can keep the conversation as calm as possible. Start by planning how you’re going to start the conversation. You’ll want to choose a calm environment as this can make a real difference.


If possible, consider getting assistance from another adult who can help you keep the conversation on track. If you have a partner – perhaps the children’s other parent – you can ask that person for help. If that’s not an option, you might enlist the help of someone else whom you and the children trust. Next, plan what you’re going to say to start the conversation. If it helps, write things down. Having a plan in place will prevent the conversation from spiraling out of your control.

About 12% of children in the US live with a parent who abuses drugs or alcohol.

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Reassure Your Children

When you start the conversation with your kids, emphasize the fact that you love them very much. Reassure them that your love will never change. You should also emphasize the fact that your addiction is not their fault. Children tend to blame themselves for things that go wrong in the family, so spend a fair amount of time on this part of the conversation. Your children should know that they are and always have been enough.

Use Age-Appropriate Language

It’s important to use age-appropriate language to make sure that your children understand your recovery to the best of their ability. For teens, you can be upfront with your dialogue. In fact, you should be as up-front as possible with teens. Teenagers are in the process of becoming adults. They’re smarter than a lot of adults give them credit for, and many teens will resent it if they feel that you’re talking down to them.


With younger children, adjust your language to their age level. Explain new terms as they come up in the conversation. For example, your child may not understand the name of your drug of choice or even the word “drug,” so you might say that a drug is something dangerous that makes you feel like you want more. If you explain to young children that you’re going to rehab, tell them that you’re going to a place that will help you feel better and stop using drugs.


The Addiction Center has a useful guide in communicating with children about recovery. In it they explain the 7 C’s in helping your child in recovery which was developed by the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. The intent is to help the child cope with the recovery and deal with challenges they may face as a result.

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Tell Your Children What Happens Next

Next, explain step-by-step what will happen after this conversation. If you’re going to rehab, tell them how long that you’ll be away. If you’re going to therapy and/or support groups, let them know what you’re doing. If somebody other than the children’s other parent will be taking care of them, let them know who this person will be. Make sure that your children understand that they’ll be well taken care of during this time. Tell the kids that you’re going to work very hard to get better.

Prepare for Questions

Your kids will probably have a lot of questions about your addiction, and these questions might catch you off-guard. You can avoid major surprises by planning for these questions ahead of time.


Some questions might include:


  • Why do you use drugs/alcohol?
  • Are you sick?
  • Can I see you in rehab?
  • Can I call you?
  • How long will you be gone?

By planning for these and other questions, you can prepare age-appropriate answers ahead of time. Doing this can help make the discussions go in a positive direction.

Getting Help

If you need more advice on how to discuss your recovery with your kids, or if you’re not sure how to start your recovery plan, allow Rehab Info to help.

We understand that recovery can be overwhelming

Which is why we want to help you take the first steps. Start by calling 800-4i92-QUIT today.
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