The absence of a parent is a frightening, confusing time for children, but the need for drug rehab is rarely a surprise to a child. Preparing in advance to answer this question – and ones like it – gives you a leg up because you won’t be caught off guard and forced to make something up on the fly.
Young children rely on their mothers and fathers to provide for their every need and ensure their safety and survival. As a result, kids are unable to grasp the concept that their parents are not the knights in shining armor they believe them to be. If Mom and Dad are capable of doing anything and solving every problem, the instant something goes wrong a child perceives the fault as his own, even if it’s as blatant as drug and alcohol addiction.
Focus on The Child’s Feelings Surrounding Drug and Alcohol Rehab
Most people (kids especially) don’t express their frustrations directly. Instead, they become adamant about taking control of the situation in their own way. Small children express this desire through hitting, biting, throwing toys, and other general unruly behaviors. Strict punishments for these actions usually result in increased frustration for both child and caregiver, and extended periods of misbehavior.
Empathizing when kids get unruly by reflecting on how they might be feeling gives them an opportunity to label their emotions and understand their own frustrations. When Johnny starts hitting, you might say something like “Hitting hurts people. Let’s take a time out and talk about what’s making you feel angry.” Identifying the source of a complex emotion takes practice and patience, but children are much more capable of talking about their feelings when they have the right words to express themselves.
The Honest Approach about Drug and Alcohol Rehab
Little ones might not be mature enough yet to understand what has happened, to realize that Mommy or Daddy will only be away for a short time, or to recognize that parents are people too and subject to their own mistakes and shortcomings. Talking about your own feelings may help break the ice when things are stressful. Giving a voice to your concerns gives children something to identify with and let’s them know they’re not alone in how they are feeling.
When questions do come up, address them with simple, age-appropriate honesty, such as “Mommy’s having some problems right now and she needs help from special doctors to get better.”
Discovering Positive Qualities from Drug and Alcohol Rehab
While it’s not a pleasant situation for anybody, the act of going through with rehab is immensely brave. Be sure to point out how courageous Mommy and Daddy are for trying to fix their problems even when they’re scared. It’s also a great demonstration of responsibility for your actions, even if you’ve make mistakes and hurt other people. Kids need to know that hope is not lost and Mommy and Daddy will be home soon to take care of them again.
Tell Us: Do you think kids react better to stressful situations when they know what’s going on around them?
By Wendy Lee Nentwig