Did you know that about one in five Canadians will experience addiction at some point in their lives?

Whether directly or indirectly, addiction touches all of us.

Given these numbers, the “alcohol, drugs and addiction talk” is an important one to have.

The problem is, many of us don’t quite know where to start.

With that in mind, here are five things to consider about having the talk.

1. Talk to Your Kids About Addiction Sooner Rather Than Later

Knowledge is a lot like cash: it’s always better to have it before you need it.

So, start the conversation well before your child is exposed to substances within their peer groups.

Starting the dialogue early gives them a leg up, opens the lines of communication, and establishes you as a trusted resource.

2. There are Age-Appropriate Ways to Approach the Addiction

You don’t always have to dive into the grown-up details.

Conversations with toddlers or preschool kids can begin around things like medicine safety, explaining how taking someone else’s medicine or too much of your own can make you feel sick.

Using metaphors they can relate to can help them understand, like explaining how some people can eat just one candy, and their body is fine, while others just can’t help themselves and end up feeling sick.

3. Turn Their Curiosity Into an Open, Ongoing Conversation About Addiction

It’s not uncommon for kids as young as ten to encounter addiction and drug topics through TV, the news, and social media.

Have regular check-ins with them to discuss what they’re seeing, hearing, and reading, and encourage them to ask questions.

4. Make It Clear That Addiction Is a Disease

Kids need to know that addiction doesn’t make someone a bad person. It simply means they’re sick.

Although addictions can be challenging to recover from, people can and do get better. They just need the right support to treat it.

5. Offer Your Support

Living with an addicted parent is often chaotic, lonely, and even scary—especially if it causes the family to break up.

Kids can become withdrawn, shy, or explosive, and many deal with self-blame, self-esteem, and trust issues.

So don’t assume a child is okay just because they may not be vocal.

Offering counseling and support can be instrumental in helping them understand and work through the situation.

Share Books that Explain Addiction to Children

Not all of us are great at breaking the ice and having serious conversations with our kids. Sometimes, the best way to begin is by cracking open a book.

Here are a few of our favourites:

Stoney the Pony’s Most Inspiring Year: Teaching Children About Addiction through Metaphor by Linda Myers

In this story designed for young kids, Stoney just can’t stop eating peppermint candies and eventually abandons his friends and family as his obsession grows. Finally, when they realize how sick he is, Stoney’s family tries to find him help.

The book also offers some practical ideas on how parents can initiate conversations and respond to questions.

Daddy’s Disease (Helping Children Understand) by Carolyn Hannan Bell

In this book geared for children ages 6-11, Tommy’s mother explains what Daddy’s disease is and how it impacts the whole family. The book helps parents navigate all the emotions of guilt or shame they sometimes feel.

Mommy’s Disease is also a book in this series.

Addict in the House: A No-Nonsense Family Guide Through Addiction and Recovery by Robin Barnett

Designed for teenagers, this book helps the reader to understand addiction better and deal with their feelings and relationship with those who are addicted.

No matter how you decide to tackle the issue, the main thing is to simply start the conversation and to show your children that you’re there for them.

Even if you don’t have all the answers, the fact that you’re there to listen can still work wonders.

We Can Help You

Ledgehill’s two facilities in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia, provide gender-specific treatment for men and women who need to heal in a peaceful, supportive environment free from fear or distraction. If you’d like to learn more about the addiction and mental health treatment programs provided by Ledgehill, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at 902-905-3586.