Daddy makes bad choices

Old 03-22-2009, 09:45 AM
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Daddy makes bad choices

People often post on this board how to handle conversations with the kids. I suggest always being positive and just saying that their parent loves them, but he/she is sick or he/she makes bad choices. Since my sons father doesn’t live with us I always tell my son that his daddy loves him and will see him when he can.

That worked for a while but now my son is going on 4 and he is searching for a better explanation. This morning my son asked where his daddy was. He stayed with us for a while when he got out of jail over Christmas, but when he violated one of my boundaries (about staying out all night) I kicked him out. It wasn't easy but enforcing boundaries is the only way to deal with an addict in your life. Addicts always lie when they are using, so my boundaries are based on his behaviors, not whether or not he uses drugs.

Anyway, my son asked where his daddy was and I said I didn’t know. He said I think he’s doing bad things and eating bad food again mama (I don’t quite know where the food thing came from). I said he might be, baby, but we don’t know for sure.

Then I tried to explain once again that his daddy makes bad choices to put unhealthly things in his body, not food but drugs. (He doesn’t understand drugs but he will someday.) THEN he said, sometimes I make bad choices mama. And I said, we all do honey. But your daddy is sick and doesn’t know better. He never learned to make good choices and now he gets in trouble a lot. I will help you learn to make good choices honey.

And then I told him he didn’t need to act like his daddy when he got big and I asked him to promise me he would try to make good choices when he was big and NOT put unhealthy things in his body. He said I promise mama.
I’m sure I didn’t handle this conversation well. But it came out of the blue, ya know. I did the best I could…

I thought it would be helpful to share this for others who have to answer difficult questions from their children so they could know what to expect.

I think honesty and age appropriate answers are key. And don't bad mouth the other parent. Just let the child know you love them and no matter what the other parent does, you will always be there for them.
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Old 03-22-2009, 09:57 AM
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Well Hello hello-kitty.

Children love their parents no matter what they do. In their little perfect world, for a child to understand that daddy does bad things, and puts bad things into his body has got to be difficult.

Glad to see you back.

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Old 03-22-2009, 10:11 AM
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hello NH7. I've got this new job and no more messing around on the internet while at work. I am definitely earning my pay! And my boy keeps me SO BUSY during the weekends - I never thought a 4 year old could keep you busier than a 2 year old. Boy I was wrong.

Love and miss you all though.

In their little perfect world, for a child to understand that daddy does bad things, and puts bad things into his body has got to be difficult.
I definitely don't recommend going this route but there just is no easy way no matter what kind of terminology we use. My son and I just ended up in this discussion and now I have to try to help him make sense of it all. At first I tried to explain daddy was sick but then the little guy asked WHY and I said because he does unhealthy things then WHY again... (and I'm sure you know how that goes)... . He never forgets and always goes back to the bad food thing. I'm trying to turn it into a lesson about putting good things into your body. Ahh well... gotta run.


Enjoy your day everyone.
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Old 03-22-2009, 10:16 AM
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It sounds like you handled it extremely well! My guess is that anything that goes into the mouth would be considered food to a little guy, and so he equates the drugs with eating unhealthy things.
Addiction is so difficult with little ones involved, but IMO your sensitivity and age appropriate honesty with your son is really awesome. He is getting the message that Daddy's absence and bad choices are not a reflection on him or anything he might have done to "make" daddy do bad things, but are about poor choices. It isn't a question of love
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Old 03-22-2009, 10:29 AM
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I'm going to throw in my two cents here, and it probably won't be popular either.

I think it's a mixed message to say someone is making bad choices, but doesn't know any better.

I didn't get into recovery myself from my own addictions/alcoholism till my oldest was eight. My youngest daughter was born two years later.

I've tried really hard in my parenting since then to instill the concept of personal accountability.

Children can learn simple concepts of right and wrong at a very early age.

My youngest recently started babysitting for a couple with four children, the youngest being a 9 month old boy. She said the first time she told him 'no' (I think he was reaching for something he shouldn't have), it was obvious he had never even heard the word, let alone know what it means.

Now he understands the word 'no' when he is reaching for something he shouldn't through repetition and either removing the object, or moving his hand away from it.

I had commented in another thread recently about the fact that although there is still some stigma attached to addiction/alcoholism, there is no excuse for any addict/alcoholic to walk around thinking there's no solution out there. Rehabs are everywhere. There's AA, NA, CA, etc etc. IOP, counseling, other resources are widely available.

So to imply that an active addict is in fact making bad choices but doesn't know better is teaching that child that we are not accountable for the choices we make, in my opinion.

There's my two cents, which is not worth much in today's stinking economy.
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Old 03-22-2009, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by cynical one View Post
IMO, I wouldnít use the word sick, children canít distinguish between being mentally sick and physically sick. And, Iíve seen where they get angry at mommy or scared that mommy wonít take care of them if they become sick. Sick to a child is throwing up, having the poops, coughing, sneezing, stuffy nose. And, mommy needs to be there to take care of them, but nobody is taking care of poor daddy. And, Iíd stay away from the word medicine, daddy doesnít take bad medicine, cause then they will be afraid of taking needed medicine.

I fully agree with this. I didn't want my kids thinking that mommy would abandon them or kick them out if they got a cold or an earache or the flu. I'd spoken with a child psychologist about this. Her thoughts were to tell them he's "sick" but when I disagreed with that theory she fully understood why I chose not to use it. I also agree with Freedom in that "he can't help it" wasn't good wording for me to use, because he can. He has a choice to get help or not.

Just my 2cents. I struggled for a LONG time with what to tell them. I think the most important thing is that they know they are loved by BOTH parents, that none of this is their fault and to not badmouth him as hard as it is. You did a great job! It's so important to keep the lines of communications as well. You're missed around here HK!
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Old 03-22-2009, 11:10 AM
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I don't disagree with you Freedom. He can't help it may be better. Or just leave it at he's making bad choices. But then that ever pressing WHY comes out...

Hard to know what to say... especially at 7 in the morning when your 3 year old wakes you up with tough questions.

Consistency and honestly are key. Letting the child know that he is loved by both parents and that he didn't do anything wrong to cause the addict-parent to leave or act badly is key.

My son's dad DOES know better. He's been in and out of jail and rehab enough times to learn that using drugs is a bad choice. But he can't seem to help it - he always ends up back on drugs because he's no willing to commit to life long recovery.

However, I don't want my son to use "I can't help it mama" as an excuse for poor choices. Sometimes I think he heads in that direction. I hate the words "I CAN'T". He says it all the time. I respond with "try harder" but that doesn't work with his dad. His dad doesn't know how to "try harder". He just doesn't have it in him I guess... He never learned.
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Old 03-22-2009, 11:12 AM
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Personally i wouldnt second guess yourself. if that's what it took for him to understand than so be it. a 4 yo cannot even remotely understand addiction so you have to keep it to terms that they do understand and sick is a word they understand. he's probably seen dad act "weird" and you can explain that the things daddy puts in his body makes him act weird and do bad things.

There are also age appropriate books that you can get too that help explain this. I know when my daughter was younger she was given a book from a counselor on death when her cousin died - it had lots of information but also activities for her to do to help her understand. these books are kind of hard to find but they are out there - she still has it and it means a lot to her.

one site i saw says this:

Toddlers and preschool children understand simple, short sentences. They need concrete information and not too much technical language. Explain the problem simply and then try to make the child’s life as normal as possible. After explaining the problem, engage the child in a fun activity.

School-aged children can handle more information than younger children. They might already have had drug information sessions at school. Be prepared to answer their questions honestly.
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Old 03-22-2009, 11:17 AM
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I also found through the years that sometimes it was okay to tell them that I didn't know why, and it was okay to not always have an answer.
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Old 03-22-2009, 11:21 AM
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We're going through this with my nephews now. The six year old often asks about his Mom and Dad, and we've had the discussion several times now. He's just now opening up about some things, and I'm very careful to not push and let him do it on his own terms. He's asked repeatedly where Mom and Dad are, and why etc. I told him that Mom and Dad had made some bad decisions and that they were sick. I told him that they were having to do things to make up for their bad decisions, and that they were seeing doctors because they were sick.

I thought I was handling it very well, until my sister called from jail and wanted to talk to her son. I had explained to her the approach we were taking and why. She talked to him a few minutes and then the inevitable question came. "Mommy where are you? When will you be home?"

This is the part where I wanted to reach and take the phone, but he needed to hear it from her. She flat out told him that she was in jail because she had done drugs. So! We spent the next few days with this child in very angry denial. My momma isn't in jail. My momma didn't do drugs. My momma isn't bad. I felt like she had thrust her crap into his lap, and with him being six he didn't know how to deal with it!

So we sat back down and talked some more. I explained that yes, Momma is in jail, and yes she did drugs. He accepted it from me, but then came the BIG question. Why? I told him that I didn't know why Mom and Dad had put bad things in their bodies, but that I did know that they loved him very much. That they loved him so much that they wanted him to stay with me while they got better. He's asked repeatedly when he will get to go back "home" because his toys are there. I had the unenviable task of explaining that all of his toys were gone. That opened a whole new can of worms. The easiest way to explain it to him was that what Mom and Dad did made his toys so dirty that we just couldn't get them clean (meth fumes/toxins), but that we had new toys here for him to play with.

I am rapidly learning that there is no easy way to explain it. Truth works, and truth scaled to the understanding of the child is sometimes good.. sometimes bad. You just have to be willing to be flexible, and learn to adapt what they need to know to their coping level.
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Old 03-22-2009, 11:39 AM
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Many of you may disagree and that's OK....I have been exactly where you are and know how hard it is....each child is different and to say I don't know when they are very young may be all the answer they need....because the truth for me was I did not know why someone would choose to use drugs over their family, especially the children.....for me I would stop at it is not your fault and leave out the daddy loves you.....children need to know if you love someone you treat them with respect, you take care of them, you are there for them....even at a early age they pick up what is acceptable...JMHO...
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Old 03-22-2009, 03:33 PM
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I think you did a fab job. I admire you for handling this in the best and most honest way you could. More chances will come to explain further as he gets older...
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Old 03-22-2009, 04:26 PM
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You do the best you can at the time. The fact that your attempting to address it and not sugar coat it is awesome. You are to be admired. I know what it is like to attempt to raise 2 kids with an addict for a Dad.
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