Drug and alcohol addiction can impact every aspect of your life and keep you from caring for even your most basic needs. Substance abuse has serious long-term consequences and can alter the course of your life. It also prevents you from making healthy decisions about your own behaviors.

Living with addiction can limit your ability to function in your everyday life. Parents with addiction often can’t fully participate in their children’s day-to-day lives and may be unable to make the healthiest choices for themselves or their kids.

Getting help for an addiction is essential to being the person and parent you want to be. But some parents are hesitant to leave their children to go to rehab–or to even talk about their addiction.

So, how can you talk to kids about going to rehab? We’ve put together a guide about how to open up this discussion with kids of all ages. Contact the specialists at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment to explore your treatment options, find support, or learn more about talking to your kids about rehab.

How to Talk to Kids About Going to Rehab at Every Age

There isn’t one simple way of talking to your kids about going to rehab. Kids of different ages need different levels and types of information. It’s important to tailor your message and share this news in an age-appropriate way.


Toddlers may not understand what drugs, alcohol, or addiction are. Young children often focus on the here and now, meaning discussions of time or descriptions of the past are unnecessary.

Use simple words and keep your statements brief. You may say something like, “Mommy is sick and needs help to get better. I will come back when I’m all better.”

Elementary-age children

Children at this age may have some understanding and awareness that there is a problem, but they may not know how to talk about it. You could begin the conversation by asking them about things they’ve noticed. Ask if they’ve noticed that you’ve been tired, moody, or away from home more recently.

You can explain how addiction occurs and what happens during treatment in simple terms. For example, you may explain that you’ll go to a facility where doctors and therapists will help you stop using drugs and learn never to start again.


Teens likely have an idea of what is happening to you, even if you believe you’ve been discreet. Explain how addiction develops and discuss it as a disease you can overcome.

Take responsibility for how addiction has changed how you look, feel, or behave. Explain that having round-the-clock care is essential to getting better and that you will likely be able to communicate with them while in treatment.

Talk About Changes to Their Routine

You may not know exactly how long you’ll be away from home, but let your children know that you’ll keep them updated on your progress. If possible, give your kids an estimate of how long you may be gone–this is typically at least four to five weeks. Knowing what to expect can help kids feel safe.

All children need to feel safe and have a regular routine to feel safe. Structures and routines might change while you are in rehab, but you can let them know what to expect.

Some changes that may occur include:

  • Who will be caring for them
  • Where they will live while you are away
  • How they will get to and from school or daycare
  • Who will bring them to after-school or weekend events

Take time to write down any changes to your children’s schedules and routines so they can look at them whenever they want to. Consider adding changes or important dates to a calendar for them to keep while you are away.

Talk About What Happens in Rehab

Children may worry or imagine scary things when they lack the necessary information. In an age-appropriate way, tell your kids about what happens in rehab. For younger children, you can simply say that you’ll be going to a kind of hospital where doctors will keep you safe and make you better.

Older children may want to look at pictures of the facility or hear more details, such as where you’ll sleep and what you’ll eat. Teens may want to know details about what therapies and treatments you may have.

Most importantly, reassure your children that you will be safe and cared for while you’re away. Emphasize that you are getting the help you need to be a better parent because you love and care for them so much.

tell your kids you're going to rehab

Get The Care You Need and Deserve

Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment is a leader in the addiction treatment field, with proven success in facilitating long-term recovery. Our team of top clinical & medical experts specializes in treating addiction coupled with mental illness, ensuring that each person receives individualized care. Call us – we’re available 24/day, 7 days/week.

(781) 622-9190

Communication and Support

Find out your rehab facility’s guidelines about phone use, visitors, and day passes. Talk to your children about how you’ll keep in touch with them while you’re away. If possible, schedule a regular time of day or week to call them or write an email or letter, but avoid making promises you may be unable to keep.

Your children may choose not to communicate with you during rehab. While this can be painful, it’s important to remember that they may have complex feelings about your addiction and need to have space.

Find support for your children, including:

  • Another parent or family member
  • A friend
  • A counselor
  • A support group like Alateen or Alanon

When you know that your children have the support they need, you can invest yourself fully in rehab and work toward a healthier, more present future.

Find Help Now

Do you need help to talk to kids about going to rehab, or want to explore your treatment options? Reach out to the caring specialists at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment. Our comprehensive treatment programs are designed to empower people and support families. Don’t wait another day for the help you need. Call today.

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