The decision to go to rehab is not an easy one, but you know it's time. By the time you get to the rehab level, your addiction is pretty obvious to adults in your life, but your children may not be clear about your problem. You may have done your best to hide your addiction from your kids. What keeps many addicts from getting the help they need is being unsure of what to say to their children about where they are going (rehab), and why they are going there. Know that you are giving your children the amazing gift of being a clean, sober, responsible and dependable parent. The following ideas can help you approach the subject with your kids.
Don't leave it to others. Children get scared when a parent disappears without saying goodbye. Conversely, they are quite resilient when they know what's going on in a parent’s life. It won’t matter if other adults in their lives assure them you are coming back; they will have anxiety until they hear it directly from you.
Choose words carefully. Your kids need to know you are going to rehab, but they don't need to know a lot of the details, unless they are pre-teens or teenagers.
Talking to younger children: Tell them you are sick (addiction is an illness, you are being honest) and you have to go to the hospital to get better. Let them know who will be taking care of them. Name the things that will be done, such as, “Aunt Sara will make you breakfast and brush your hair every morning until I come home”.
Explaining to pre-teens or teens: The cold hard truth is that your teens have an addict parent. If they have not figured that out they already, they could be at risk themselves for addiction because they won't understand their genetic predisposition. They don't need many details about your drug use. Just let them know you have substance abuse issues and you are going to rehab. Before leaving, find out about local support groups such as Al-Anon and Alateen, and leave that information with a trusted adult who can provide transportation for your kids to the meetings, if they wish to get help.
Bring in a therapist. Young children feel scared and teens get angry. Both scenarios can benefit from an experienced therapist who works with substance abuse families.
If you already know that visits to the rehab are possible on Family Day, be sure to let your children know in advance. Hang a calendar on the wall marking the day you are leaving and the day you will be back. Show younger children how to X out each day as it passes so they have a tangible way to understand how long your rehab will last.