How Do You Tell a Child You’re Sober?

I don’t have children, so this is a hypothetical question for me. For many women (hell, for many men!) in recovery, it’s a very real question. How do you explain to your kids that mommy or daddy is a recovering alcoholic?

I’ve been in meetings where there are young children present. This rocks for two reasons. First, they’re kids and they’re so cute! Second, it shows a huge level of dedication to sobriety. Think about it – the child’s parents are so committed to staying sober that they’re willing to bring their child to a meeting. My metaphorical hat is off!

how to tell your child you're in recovery

I always wonder, though, what the child thinks. Do they understand the seriousness of what’s going on? Can they pick up on the life or death struggle that alcoholics deal with? Do they think mommy and daddy’s friends are a bunch of tattooed weirdos?

So, with that in mind, I’ve gathered some of my thoughts about explaining addiction and recovery to children. They may be wonderful, awesome, one-of-a-kind thoughts. They may stink. I’m not sure! Like I said, I’m not a parent.

It’s my hope that the following can help someone struggling with the frightening question of how to best tell their kid that they’re a sober woman of grace and dignity!

Be Open & Honest From a Young Age

Children are smart! They pick up on then we give them credit for. If you bring your kids to meetings, or even if you used to drink around them, I’m sure they’ve figured out that something’s up.

So, lay it all on the table. Tell them that you used to drink or drug and no longer do. Don’t go into your war stories, or share details that are inappropriate, but be open and honest.

I’m speaking from personal experience. I have an aunt who’s sober. While being an aunt is different from being a parent, the same principles apply. When I started to get into trouble with drugs and booze, she sat me down and explained her past struggles.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but looking back I appreciate her reaching out so much!

Have Your Sober Supports in Their Life

Did someone say free babysitting? I kid, I kid!

All jokes aside, introduce your sponsor to your children. After all, she’s the woman who taught you how to live. She’s the woman who gave you the chance to be a responsible parent. I’m sure your kids will adore her!

Sober supports, sponsor or otherwise, are the lifeblood of recovery. They’re the reason we’re sane members of society! At least, they are for me! Remember what I said about children picking up on things? I’m willing to bet they’ll pick up on your sober supports’ serenity and peace.

When the day comes that I have kids, I can’t think of a woman I want them to meet more than my sponsor!

Let Them Read the Big Book When They’re Old Enough

Although there are sections of the Big Book that aren’t suitable for children, most of it is a great lesson in how to be selfless, patient, giving, and responsible. What more could a child ask for? Well…probably some video games!

Really, though, Bill, Dr. Bob, and the first one hundred managed to write an amazing manual on how to live the type of life everyone wants. They managed to write about how to be happy, joyous, and free.

That seems like the kind of lesson to pass on to a child!

Include Them in Your Prayer & Meditation

telling your kid you're sober

This is, for me anyway, the most important part about telling a child you’re in recovery. Although sober supports are the lifeblood of sobriety, prayer and meditation are sobriety itself.

What better way to expose a kid to what recovery is really about then involving them in your prayer life? They’ll learn that, no matter what, they can turn to a Higher Power for help.

In today’s tumultuous world, that seems like a priceless gift.

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