When Do I Tell My Kids About My Past?

Some parents have put their kids through the wringer with their addiction and then there are other parents who have kids that have never see them drink or use at all. Regardless of what side you are on, there may come a time when questions could be provoked based on your past.

“Have you ever been to jail?” 

“Did you ever smoke marijuana?” 

“Were you ever driving drunk?

These are some of the questions you may run across with curious offspring who just want to know about what you did out there. Depending on their age and what you are ready to tell them, there are some guidelines to follow if you are unsure how to approach the situation. 

Build trust

You want to be honest, but obviously being age-appropriate is the key. With elementary kids and below, setting the stage for them to be able to come to you about anything can start with you answering their questions. For older kids, they probably know more than you realize because middle and high school is often a time when they are exposed to drugs and alcohol, and possibly even experiment with them. 

Provide guidance

Telling your kids about drugs and alcohol is very similar to telling them about the birds and bees. You want them to have knowledge about these very important issues. You also want them to carry your values with them and the only way this can happen is if they hear about it from you first. If a friend is the first one to talk to them, or worse offer it to them, then you may be back to square one in trust and guidance instead of giving the important information that could help them to make better choices. 

Encourage discretion

Let them know they have a choice to say “no” to things that make them uncomfortable or they are unsure of. Giving them the predisposition to come and talk to you first could save them in the long run. A nonjudgmental open-door policy can be the best thing you can offer them to get questions answered and inform them of the risks based on your past mistakes. If the time comes, your past can give the indication they need to not pick up drugs and alcohol. Discern how much or how little they need to know because every kid is different. 

Show example

Although you may not drink or use anymore, you can give them the evidence they need to stay away from drugs and alcohol. Pull up articles or blogs of other kids who have suffered immensely from drugs and alcohol. Find age-appropriate videos that can show them what someone who is addicted does under the influence. Sesame Street even has come out with resources that show addiction. If you are in therapy, ask your therapist to give you some tips on how to prevent drug and alcohol addiction in your kids. Educate them in any way you can so they can make a concerted effort to turn away from drugs and alcohol. The more knowledge they have, the more power they have to decline them. 

Validate them

Whatever emotional stress they have concerning your own addiction, understand they are hurt by what you have done even if you think you have not affected them at all. When you have changed your demeanor, your language, the inflection in your voice, or your emotional state, you have made an impact on them, often negatively. Letting them have their opinion on what has happened, certifies to them that you are trying to change instead of treating them like they incapable of dealing with the adult issues that you put them into. Acknowledge their pain and make amends for your part so they can move on.

Be reliable

Now that you are in recovery, offer them the chance to heal that you have been given. If you have not shown up for them in the past, you can in the present. Keep your promises to a fault and suit up and show up for them at any cost. You need to build trust and security that they might have missed before. They need to learn to do what normal kids do rather than worrying about grown-up issues. Extending them consistency will give them a chance to stop stressing about your addiction and your unpredictable behavior so they can just be a kid again. 

While you may be afraid to talk about your past to your kids, discovering applicable ways to tell your kids what it used to be like can be something that can assist them in deciding that drugs and alcohol are not for them. You have nothing to lose to share your past with them as long as you are pensive in your approach. 

Offering a full range of recovery and mental health services, Valiant Living offers “Expanded Recovery” to enrich our clients’ lives in mind, body, and spirit. Through evidence-based therapy options and the endless adventure of Colorado, Valiant fosters connection, encouraging clients to get connected to themselves, their peers, their families, and their higher power. With the power of recovery, clients are restored to full health and experience life-changing healing. Call us today for more information: 303-536-5463