Reminding us it's okay (and important) to include little kids in big conversations.
After 16 years of sobriety, Dax Shepard suffered a relapse after he began taking prescribed opioids as pain relief following an ATV accident in August of last year. The relapse occurred after he began "augmenting" the amount he was taking and began buying the pills himself. It's the mistake that no recovering addict wants to admit to himself, let alone his family, but Shepard did both with grace and a willingness to start fresh all over again.
"I can't imagine having to admit [the relapse] to other people and feeling as safe as I did that you guys wouldn't hate me," he told his wife, Kristen Bell, during a recent episode of his podcast, Armchair Expert.
"I hated me at that point," he added. "So to be able to tell you guys, and feel unconditionally loved and that I would be accepted, was really special. It saved my life."
When it came time to have the difficult conversation with his children, Dax was open and honest.
On an episode of Chelsea Clinton's In Fact podcast, Dax shared that he and Kristen told their daughters, 8-year-old Lincoln and 6-year-old Delta, "the whole thing".
"They knew when I relapsed," Dax said. "We explained, 'Well, daddy was on these pills for his surgery, and then daddy was a bad boy and he started getting his own pills.' We tell them the whole thing."
In having difficult conversations with kids, Dax and Kristen looked at their daughters' ages and developmental stages to guide their conversation, and were able to break down the issue in simple terms. According to Commonsense Media, "Young children are very literal. Understanding a bit about how kids perceive the world in each phase of their development helps you deliver information about it in the most age-appropriate way." Other foundations of communication around big topics with children include communicating that someone's in charge, creating a safe space for discussion, and encouraging an open dialogue.
Silence concerning difficult subjects, on the other hand, can be detrimental to children. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) says, "What you do not say carries messages that are as strong as what you do say. Regardless of your intent, the unwillingness to talk with a child openly and directly (regarding difficult subjects) sends serious, strong, and potentially hurtful messages. When adults are silent or vague about things that children are seeing and trying to understand, children absorb the emotional message that the subject is not okay to talk about."
These days, Dax feels even better than he did before his relapse, telling Clinton he feels like he's been given a "second chance" to confront his addictions. "Today at least, I feel better with six months than I had felt in 15 years," he said.