Maybe the moment has come.
You realize you need to enter a residential treatment center for your substance abuse disorder. You need help finding a route to lasting sobriety, and an inpatient recovery center is equipped to offer you the help and resources you so desperately need.
But maybe there’s something—or rather, someone—standing in your way. If you are a parent, you may be concerned about how your children will react to your absence. And if you are a single parent, these concerns may run even deeper.
You need help. Your kids need you. What should you do? You’re going to have to carefully think through a number of important issues.
What are Your Childcare Options?
If you have a partner in your home, your decision to enter treatment may be less fraught with problems. A spouse or significant other can continue loving and caring for a child or children while you are away—and can also provide constant reassurance that you are coming home and still love the child dearly.
For single parents, the first option might be family. Could your parents, one of your siblings, or even someone from your more extended family step in and help while you get treatment? This option may disrupt your children’s usual routines—especially if the relatives live far away. But the benefits of staying with loving family might outweigh the change in routine, even if it means missing school or favorite activities for a period of time.
Close friends may also be an option, as long as those friends are not involved with substance abuse themselves. Leaving your children with anyone suffering from a substance abuse disorder is never a good idea.
It is possible that a daycare situation can make it easier for your family or friends to help. If a child has a place to go during the day or after school, it can relieve some of the pressure on the person or people who are providing care while you are away. Daycare can, of course, be expensive, so you will want to think carefully about what you can afford and whether or not your family might be willing to help you with the costs.
Finding a workable solution to childcare is essential. It is important for your children’s wellbeing. It is also important because it can allay a fear many parents feel when they admit to needing help for a substance abuse disorder: that their children will be placed in foster care. That outcome is avoidable if you can create a workable plan for your children’s care.
What Should You Tell Your Children?
Talking to your kids about your substance abuse disorder and need for treatment may seem like a daunting task. After all, as a parent, you want your children to trust in your ability to care for them, to provide for them, and to keep them safe. You may feel as though admitting to problems with drugs or alcohol will undermine your kids’ confidence in you.
But by this point, you have already realized that you can’t be a truly effective parent unless you get help. So even though it will be hard, you are going to have to explain the situation to your children.
If those children are very young, you will want to keep things simple and reassuring. A young child can understand the idea that you are sick and need to go someplace where doctors can help you get better. Assure them you will be coming home as soon as you can and that you will be feeling better when you do.
For children who are older, a straightforward approach may be best—especially if they have witnessed your substance abuse or its aftermath. You may need to decide in advance how much detail you are comfortable sharing with your children, but you should also be prepared to answer their questions honestly. They may be hurt or angry at first, but odds are they will come around to the idea that you need to get help so that everyone’s lives—including theirs—will improve.
What Else Should You Keep in Mind?
It is difficult to anticipate what your child or children might need while you are away. Ideally, the family or friends taking care of them will be able to offer reassurance and answer general questions about your recovery efforts. It is important that those caregivers avoid saying negative things about you or your substance abuse disorder. The emphasis should always be on how important it is for you to get better.
Even with all the reassurance in the world, some children may benefit from seeing a therapist to help them work through their feelings about your absence and your struggles. Your treatment center can likely provide recommendations if it appears your kids need some mental health support. Similarly, family therapy may be an appropriate option as well.
While you are in rehab, you may be eager to have your children visit. It’s possible your kids will be as excited to come see you as you are to have them visit. But it is also possible that a child will be frightened to enter a treatment center or even too angry to agree to visit. In those cases, though it will be difficult, it may be better to let the child opt out of visiting until he or she feels ready. Forcing a visit may do more harm than good—for both of you.
We’re Ready to Support You
At The Aviary Recovery Center, we stand ready to help you recover from a substance abuse disorder. Taking care of yourself is an important first step toward taking better care of your whole family. We have the resources and support systems in place to help you achieve lasting sobriety—the best outcome for both you and everyone who depends on you.