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How to talk to a teenager about a parent’s addiction

For many reasons we may avoid telling our teenagers certain pieces of information about their parents. Primarily to protect them. However, when it comes to those teenage years, they will certainly know something is wrong and treating them with the respect they deserve and being open about it can often be the most constructive move. Especially when it comes to a subject such as parent’s addiction.

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With more and more people across the country suffering from addiction, it’s not unusual to see a parent (or both parents) within a family suffer from it, whether that be alcohol, drugs, gambling or any other form. 

Talking to a teenager about their parent’s’ addiction can be a challenging and emotional experience. Addiction affects not only the individual but their loved ones as well, and it’s important to approach the conversation with sensitivity and understanding. 

Be Honest And Open About The Parent’s Addiction

Firstly, it’s essential to be honest and open about the situation. Acknowledge that addiction is a disease and that it’s not their fault. Be prepared to answer any questions they may have, and be willing to listen to their concerns and feelings.

Discuss how the parent has been feeling and what is going to happen to help them, whether it be getting treatment at home or being sent off to a drug rehabilitation centre in order to get their life back on track. 

Provide Age-Appropriate Information

Depending on the age of the teenager, they may have different levels of understanding about addiction. It’s important to provide age-appropriate information that they can understand. Avoid using technical jargon or complicated medical terms, and instead use language that is easy to comprehend.

Reassure Them That They’re Not Alone

Having a parent who is struggling with addiction can be a lonely experience for a teenager. They may feel like they’re the only ones going through this, but it’s important to reassure them that they’re not alone. Let them know that there are support groups and resources available to them, and encourage them to reach out for help if they need it.

Encourage Them to Express Their Feelings About Their Parent’s Addiction

It’s normal for a teenager to feel a range of emotions when dealing with a parent’s addiction, including anger, sadness, and confusion. Encourage them to express their feelings in a safe and healthy way. They may benefit from talking to a therapist or joining a support group for children of addicts.

A girl sits at the kitchen table talking to Dad about her parent's addiction

Set Boundaries

Addiction can be unpredictable, and it’s important to set boundaries to protect the teenager’s wellbeing. This may include limiting contact with the parent or setting rules about drug or alcohol use in the home. Be clear about the boundaries and explain why they are necessary.

Emphasise The Importance of Self-Care

Dealing with a parent’s addiction can be overwhelming, and it’s important for the teenager to take care of themselves. Encourage them to practice self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating well, and engaging in activities they enjoy. This can help them manage their emotions and reduce stress.

Seek Professional Help

If the teenager is struggling to cope with their parent’s addiction, it may be necessary to seek professional help. A therapist or counsellor can provide support and guidance and help the teenager develop healthy coping strategies to ensure that their own life stays on track and the family can remain a tight a unit as possible.

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