How to Help Children Cope When a Parent Goes to Rehab

With addiction in the picture, it isn’t easy to keep family responsibilities and affairs in order. It is most especially difficult when a parent is suffering from an addiction.

If it gets to that, we can be sure that a lot of parental responsibilities will be affected or even abandoned.

Individuals with an addiction often find themselves in a self-centric disposition. They are more likely to go at lengths to satisfy their cravings, and sometimes this comes at a massive cost for everyone around them.

A lot of decisions are made while under the influence, and most are likely to end up as glaringly irrational decisions.

For an addicted parent with a child or children, this poses a huge problem.

What Are The Effects of a Parent’s Addiction on the Children?

Children, even up to young adult age, are impressionable and whatever parental deficits their addicted parent expresses can:

  • cause them emotional imbalance
  • affect their academic performance
  • skew their overall perception
  • lead them into the world of alcohol and drug use
  • disrupt their sociability

Aside from the few detriments listed above, there are more ways a parent’s substance abuse can affect their children.

Addiction, in the form of addictive agents, lingers in an addict’s genetic material, to become a heritable attribute for a child.

Putting all these into consideration, parents should seek professional help to get rid of their addiction for the benefit of themselves, their children, and future children.

Drug rehab at a reputable recovery center is the best option for an addicted parent.

Sure, the parent’s absence might be tough on the kids, but it will be for the family’s greater good.

How Can I Help The Children Cope When Their Parent Goes To Rehab?

If you can relate to this question, you are probably the spouse of the addicted parent, a relative or a guardian who is now taking care of the children.

You have probably tried your best to explain to the children why their father/mother won’t be coming home in a while, without implicating things.

Now that they have probably accepted the reality, it is time to make sure that the current reality does not faze them or derail their affection for the addicted parent.

The tips below provide insights that can help you make the period bearable for the kids:

Reassure The Children That All Is Well

Despite assurances that might have been provided before the parent went on rehab, children can still be overly worried about their parent’s condition.

It is always vital to reassure the children that their parent is in safe hands, receiving appropriate treatments.

Let them know that their parent is healthy and even getting healthier. And that at the end of it all, everyone is going to reunite as a happier family.

This constant reassurance can help the children come to terms with the absence and adopt a more positive outlook on the current reality.

Be Available For The Kids Always

It is important to note that this could be a tough time for the children, especially if they are tender and had a very close bond with the parent.

Even if the children are adolescents who do not fall into this spectrum, this period could still be a trying one for them.

They need all the emotional support they can get, and sometimes, they might want to talk about the absence or current condition of their addicted parent.

It would be best if you made it a responsibility to indulge their questions and hold heart-to-heart conversations with them any time the need arises. Don’t put off their need for emotional support for later.

Therapy Might Be Required

For some kids, the period might be overwhelmingly distressing, to the point that they are gravely unable to function normally.

If that is ever the case, it might be necessary to have the child visit a therapist for counseling and to help put things into perspective for the child. This can help the child/children adjust to the situation more quickly and easily.

treatment that involves the whole family. Depending on the age of the child, family therapy can help children better understand their parent’s behavior, manage their emotions, and understand that the addiction is not their fault,” says Mathew Gorman, CEO of Briarwood Detox Center.

Strengthen Their Bond With The Addicted Parent – Don’t Miss A Visit

Rehab period is going to be a while – running from weeks to months – depending on how severe the addiction was, and the treatment processes involved.

Some addiction recovery centers allow for occasional visits, which gives the children opportunities to spend time with their parents during rehab.

The visits can be supportive and endearing moments that help the children uphold their parent and the current reality in a positive light.

As they notice their parent’s obvious improvement during the visits, the children might see the good in the process and look forward to a happy reunion.

Hence, you should make it a duty to ensure that the children don’t miss a visit, especially if they look forward to it.

Strengthen Their Bond With The Addicted Parent – Don’t Force A Visit

You should also bear in mind that while the visitation days ought to be a special day for both parties, there might be days when the child/children might not feel like visiting. Don’t push it.

Don’t try to force them to visit their parents at the rehab because their reluctance and eventual coercion might not make for the best of visits.

The recovering parent is in a fragile state, and being face-to-face with a child who is seemingly unaccepting of their struggles can take a huge mental toll on them, as well as on their responsiveness to treatment.

On the other hand, the child/children might begin to distance themselves from the parent in the awkwardness of the visit. In some cases, they might start feeling indifferent about their parent’s struggle.

You might have good intentions while coercing the children to visit their parent at the rehab because it would do the parent some good.

But, it is also important to note that the condition of the parent is not the children’s responsibility, and they shouldn’t be made responsible for it.

Doing so might affect the children in an unprecedented manner and make it even harder for them to cope with their parent’s absence.

Keep Them Educated, Engaged And Socially Active

Knowing the details of their parent’s condition as an addict receiving treatment can make a child reclusive. They might feel some shame when other kids ask them about their parent’s whereabouts.

If that feeling lingers over time, it might limit the child’s ability or willingness to engage socially.

Let the children know that the fact that their parent is receiving treatment for a disease is nothing to be ashamed of.

Let them understand that addiction is a disease, and people who are down with a disease are meant to receive treatment and feel better. Their parent is doing a brave thing by undergoing treatment. It is a laudable course of action to take.

Guide them in the direction of a sensible social circle, where they can express themselves fully. Encourage the children to participate in interactive games or activities with one another and other kids in public.

This can help them dwell less on their parent’s condition, and lead a life that is as normal as possible until their parent returns.

Do Your Best

When a parent goes to rehab for treatment, the kids do not feel the absence alone; the other parent or guardian that takes care of them is also affected.

You might find yourself stressed out occasionally – that’s understandable.

While taking care of the kids, you should bear in mind to also take care of yourself. By not neglecting yourself, you will be in a better position to take care of them and help them cope with their parent’s absence.

Perhaps, as you are reading this, you are an addicted parent hoping to go sober. You could be the spouse of the addicted parent or a concerned relative/friend, wondering how to help the kids if the addicted parent (or you) goes to rehab.

You should note that it is crucial to opt for medically-supervised drug detox in an authorized and fully-equipped recovery center as the first step in addiction recovery and treatment

Encourage your loved ones to seek treatment today. Contact a professional to learn more about addiction treatment.

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