We all want to fill our children’s lives with fun and goodness and happiness and light. If we had our way, that would be all they’d ever know. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. The people in our lives get sick or injured. Everybody ages. Some people deal with addictions and need professional help overcoming them.
It is important if there is someone in your children’s lives who struggles with drugs or alcohol dependency, that you do your best to limit your children’s exposure to them until they are ready and willing to get treatment. For some this may mean that they spend time in an alcohol detox treatment program. If the program is an in-patient program, it is a fair bet that your children will be curious about why their loved one is absent and they may even want to go visit them. Here are some tips to help make that trip (and other trips like to visit grandparents in assisted living facilities, sick friends in a hospital, etc.) easier for them to manage.
Your first instinct might be to keep the details of a loved one’s recovery as vague as possible. That is certainly understandable. Depending on the ages of your kids, it might even be the best approach to their questions. If your children are school age or teenagers, however, being honest with them about what their loved one is going through is very important. You don’t have to dive deep into the nitty-gritty details of the person’s addiction or the things they did while they were under the influence. You should, however, be upfront about where this person is going to be staying and why they are there. This is particularly important if the person is your child’s other parent as addiction can be hereditary and it’s good to tune them into the signs and symptoms of addiction early.
If your kids want to go visit their loved one at the recovery facility (and if the facility will allow children to visit), go with them. Even if they don’t want to admit it, your children will likely be nervous or even scared about the visit. The facility itself will likely seem strange. They might also be afraid of the other people they will see while there. Stay within arm’s reach as much as possible. If the person they are visiting is allowed to have one-on-one time with them, do your best to remain in your children’s line of sight. You don’t have to constantly be staring at them (that might scare them even more), just be quickly and easily findable if they need you.
Note: Sometimes the courts will be involved if the person you are visiting is your children’s other parent. You might be dealing with court-ordered visitation, in which case, always follow the rules laid out to you by your caseworker and the court!
The Cool Down and The Debrief
Once you are back at home, make sure your children know that you are there for them for whatever they need, but let them spend some time by themselves if they need to. Everybody processes stressful events differently. After some quiet time, sit down together and talk through the visit. Ask them questions about how they were feeling and how they feel now. Answer the questions they ask you as honestly as possible. If necessary, talk about plans for future visits.
Every child is different and, as such, will respond to potentially stressful new environments and situations in their own ways. Still, being there both physically and emotionally will go a long way toward helping your kids stay happy and healthy, even when in new and potentially scary environments.