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The Transition House, Inc.

Talking to your children about a family history of substance abuse

talking to kids about family history of substance abuse

If alcohol or drug addiction runs in your family, experts suggests talking to your children about it no later than the pre-teen or early teen years. The fact that your child has a greater risk for developing a substance abuse problem is serious and should be discussed before they discover these substances on their own. There's no reason to be embarrassed or shy about discussing your own addiction problems with your kids.  An open and honest conversation leads to a healthy relationship void of secrets. Here are a few tips for discussing your family's addiction history with your children... 

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Talk early and often.

This shouldn’t be a one-time conversation. Keep the line of communication open, and remind your child that you are there to answer any questions they might have. The sooner you have this conversation, the better. Teens, and even pre-teens, can gain access to alcohol and other substances. Warning your child about a family history of substance abuse can deter them from exploring what otherwise might seem like a 'fun' experiment. 

Show your child there’s a support system in place for them.  

Who better to turn to than someone who has experienced addiction first hand? Whether it’s you or a family member, remind your child that there is always someone to talk to. Having a support system is incredibly important for someone who can develop a substance abuse problem. Discuss your journey with substance abuse with them. Hearing first hand how difficult it can be eye-opening for your child.   

Talk about the stigma.

It’s important to remember that addiction is a disease. Explain that addiction is a progressive disease, which combines physical and mental addiction. Addressing the stigma that is associated with substance abuse will help open up the communication and will allow your child to know the facts.

Set clear rules about alcohol and other substances.

Communicate the importance of abstaining from alcohol and other substances. Tell your children that they need to delay drinking for as long as possible or recommend that they not drink at all. Explain that the older they are before they take a drink, the lower the chances that they will have problems with alcohol. Let your children know that drinking under the legal age of 21 is a major risk for people with a family history of alcohol.

To learn more about substance abuse, download our eBook.


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