When a loved one is battling substance abuse problems, it can sometimes feel that mere words fail to fully express the worry, regret, angst and sadness experienced while watching him or her falter. Speaking openly with the afflicted person or other adult relatives can be quite painful, however, the thought of speaking with a child in the family about the problem can strike one as exceedingly daunting. Needless to say, a child is not psychologically equipped to understand the situation nor the underlying causes nor implications. Despite any doubt you may experience, there are simple way to explain to a child the changes taking place when a family member seeks rehabilitation treatment. It's easy to speak respectfully and ease any fears the child may express.
Refresh the children's memory about little milestones he or she accomplished such as learning to tie shoelaces, write the alphabet or ride a bike; add engaging or funny stories regarding slip-ups during the lesson process, which they may not recall. Remind them that an older, more experienced person provided guided instruction so they could grasp a new, complex skill. At this point, mention the family member in rehab, and simply say a special person is needed to show him or her proper ways to do adult activities. Repeatedly assure the child that the relative is anxiously waiting seeing the family again once they learn how to become happy.
Speak in a loving manner about the family member at all times so the child does not feel angry or resentful due to a perception of abandonment. Emphatically state that the relative went for help to discover greater happiness so he or she can spread it to others.