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There is no demographic that is unaffected by the spread of substance abuse and addiction that we have witnessed in the United States (and around the world) over the past two decades. Children, especially, are not immune to the effects of this phenomenon. Homes that are affected by substance abuse tend to have a profound effect on children growing up, and kids that are exposed to substance abuse when they are younger are more likely to be at risk for addiction when they are older. It’s for this reason that it is so important to talk to children about addiction earlier on, especially when it is close to their own lives. Here are some tips to remember for that difficult conversation…

Understand that each age group is different

There is a major difference between a child of 8 and a child of 12, or a child of 12 and a child of 16. Each age group of a child represents a huge difference in behavior and thought process, on top the of the fact that each child matures a little bit differently. Because of this fact, you have to take into account the age group of the child that you are talking to. Addiction can be a heavy topic, and the way in which you address needs to shift depending on the age of the kid.

Be honest

Even though children haven’t learned a lot about the world, yet, they often have a raw, unfiltered emotional intelligence that can recognize authenticity, at least when it comes to big, important talks. Because of this, it is important to be honest and direct when talking about disease. If an important person in their life is suffering from addiction, don’t beat around the bush with it. Tell them what is going on and what they should expect. You can tread softly, but don’t try to hide the facts.

Allow questions

Children are going to want to ask questions. Curiosity is an innate aspect of a child’s mind. Allow them to ask questions and help them find questions to ask that are truly going to help them. If questions are being asked in a conversation that is this heavy, then they are probably burying something inside and stewing on it. It is better to simply get everything out so that you can help them gain context.