• Jason Brumback

The Do’s and Don'ts: Talking To Your Adult Children About Your Addiction


No matter where you are in your recovery journey, the idea of talking to your adult children about your addiction may seem daunting. On the one hand, you don't want to scare them. But, on the other hand, you also probably value having an honest relationship where you can all express yourselves clearly.


These conversations aren't easy, but they are important. Before starting the discussion, here are some valuable tips to keep in mind.


Do Listen and Validate Their Feelings

It's essential that you provide a safe environment for your children to express their thoughts and feelings about your addiction. Your actions inevitably affect others. Learning (and listening) as others share their opinions shows an openness to connect.


Remember that it's normal to want to explain yourself or become defensive. However, these responses often only trigger conflict. Likewise, they can cause people to shut down altogether.


Recovery is all about managing ego, and that means you need to let go of self-righteousness and entitlement. You need to be willing to let others vocalize their needs and tell you how they feel. Ensuring that you can offer this to your children will ideally help them feel safe to come to you.


Don't Assume You Need to Share Every Detail

Honesty is crucial, but that doesn't mean you are obligated to disclose every single piece of your addiction. In fact, depending on the content, oversharing can cause ruptures within family systems.


Try to be sensitive to your children and keep conversations age-appropriate. If they ask specific questions, answer them as truthfully as you can. But don't feel the need to provide every shred of information, particularly if something will really hurt them.


If you aren't sure what to share, individual or family therapy can provide guidance. In these professional settings, you will review patterns, boundaries, and conflict resolution skills. Subsequently, you will also learn how to communicate in ways that foster closeness- rather than resentment or alienation.


Do Give Them Time

It's typical for adult children to feel wary about trusting their parents again. They may feel very angry, betrayed, or scared, and these feelings become compounded if they have witnessed you relapsing in the past.


With that in mind, don't rush the process. They have every right to take things slowly and you trying to force them to forgive you won't fix the situation. If anything, it will make them feel pressured and uncomfortable, which can create even more tension.


Instead, simply let them know you are here when they are ready. Focus on being as consistent and supportive as possible. Maintain the work in your own recovery without obsessing over how they respond to it.


Don't Blame Them

No matter the circumstances, managing your recovery is entirely your responsibility. You are accountable for making the changes you want to see in your life.


Addiction is a complex disease, but it also isn't fair to blame children for causing, maintaining, or triggering your substance use. Your family life may have played a role in your stress. But projecting blame sidesteps personal accountability.


Unfortunately, some adult children blame themselves for their parent's addiction. If this is the case, it's your job to continue reminding your children that nothing was their fault.


Do Share Your Concerns

Research shows that substance use disorders run in families, meaning your children may be more susceptible to addiction. You may even see some of the early warning signs now.


If that's the case, it's important to share your concerns and have open-ended conversations with your children about your observations. That said, it's equally important to avoid lecturing or assuming you know everything there is to know about addiction.


Of course, you don't want to enable a child's poor decisions. But you should also strive to provide a non-judgmental environment where your children feel safe to talk about what's happening in their lives.


Don't Make False Promises

More than anything, it's important to stay realistic when managing your recovery. It's tempting to tell your children you'll always be there for them or that you'll never use drugs again. But these grandiose claims can be dangerous, especially because you can't guarantee them.


Instead, take things day by day. Let them know that you are working as hard as you can. Acknowledge the inevitable struggles associated with recovery. Be forthcoming in sharing that you want to keep making good decisions.


Your children are adults. They know how the real world works. There's no benefit to sugarcoating what's going on.


Final Thoughts

Talking about your adult children about your addiction can seem scary and awkward. But committing to this dialogue- even when it's uncomfortable- shows ownership over your actions. It also shows your dedication to strengthening your family relationships.


At The Resurface Group, we value helping clients and their families reconnect with one another. We are here for you! Contact us today to get started.

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