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Disclosure to Children M. Deborah Corley, PhD Sante Center for Healing 1-800-258-4250

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1 Disclosure to Children M. Deborah Corley, PhD Sante Center for Healing 1-800-258-4250

2 Atmosphere in Sex Addicted Families  High emotional discomfort – kids know something is going on  Parents can’t manage emotional states; not emotionally available to the child  Child object of behaviors  Child witness to behaviors or asked to lie or keep secret  Child used as emotional or physical barrier between parents

3 Situations After Discovery  Addict make inappropriate disclosure out of fear and shame  Partner tells more than is appropriate out of anger or fear  Or either addict or partner demand nothing be told  Fear of loss of relationship with partner or child  Fear of hurting the child  Fear of negative response by child  Parent doesn’t know how or feel ready

4 Address The Fear & Shame  If you were coming from a place of strength and self love, mutual love, what would you be doing differently to care for self, each other and the children?  Role of a parent  Be available emotionally  Repair when there is a attachment injury/disconnect  Provide structure, guidance, protection, nurturance

5 Parent’s recommendations about when  Children’s factors  When old enough to comprehend – early teens or older to give information about SA  Stick with what general hurtful behavior was, not details  Unless older, sex addiction is hard to understand  When parent can answer question about divorce or a separation  Immediately if child suspects or has been victim  When likelihood that child will hear from other source

6 Parent’s recommendations about when  Addict’s factors  Soon after recovery has begun, when denial is less and there is help about how much to say  When addict can convey hope  After addict has enough time in recovery to look like has changed  Partner’s factors  If partner is having difficult time children need to know why & it is not their fault  When partner can convey hope  After partner’s rage and initial shock are lessened

7 Reactions to disclosure  Reactions by child to disclosure  Shock, disbelief  Fear, sadness, confusion  Expressed anger  Verification of suspicions or knowledge  Try to cheer others  Praise addict and/or support partner Corley & Schneider, 2003

8 Coach Both To Be Good Enough Parent  Be an emotional coach  Create new set of recovery values to share and to guide you  Realize disclosure and healing is a process that last years – you don’t have to solve it all in one disclosure  Be prepared for disconnects and practice repair (avoidant - move toward; anxious - give space, then closeness)  Age appropriate information, revisit it at various times

9 Five Steps of Emotional Coaching  Be aware of child’s emotion  Recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy (nurturing) and teaching (guidance)  Listening with empathy and verify the child’s feelings  Help the child verbally label the feeling(s)  Setting limits (protection, structure) while helping the child problem solve Gottman, 1997

10 Clarifying Values  Where did you get your values?  Re-creating values based on recovery principles (accountability, relationship with HP, making amends, giving back)  Add structure, guidance, protection, nurturance  Your own guidelines for the topic – i.e. sexual behaviors within primary versus casual relationships or sexual health!  Where to start with what to say  Where it is okay to disagree  Think, discuss, write it, practice first!

11 Basic Repair Work  Disclosure = Information about violating values, addiction in general (when someone uses a substance or a behavior to cope with stress or emotions rather than talking about it with trusted adult and best friend). (Letter)  Addict has consequences for violating values and breaking rules  Acknowledge and make amends for consequences child has endured -- ask what can do today to make things better  Discuss the differences between the old addict values and new recovery ones and reiterate trust can’t be rebuilt without changes in behavior

12 Basic Repair Work 2  Focus more on the positive parts of recovery  Over time discuss more about healthy sexuality and relationships than bringing up the old information (what I have learned in recovery…)  Acknowledge their feelings – be accountable while offering structure, guidance, protection and nurturance  Keep the door open – give them way to keep communicating (journal, letter, pictures, counselor or trusted friend)

13 What kid’s want to know  Pre-school (3-5)  Want to know parent will not die or leave them  Early Elementary (5-8)  Will something had happen that is my fault? (Divorce)  What is recovery, addiction?  What will happen now? (Structure, Availability)  Upper Elementary / Middle School 9(-13)  Am I normal?  Will I get this addiction because I have sexual feelings?  Teen/Adult Years  How could you do this to Mom? To the family?  How specifics relate to me? (You’ve ruined my life!)

14 What kid’s don’t want to know  The specific details of acting out  How angry you are at your spouse  How sex was or is between you and your partner

15 Coming Out Not The Same Disclosure Come from your proud, strong gay/bi self Don’t wait for someone else to tell Start conversations when kids are young Inform, don’t confess Assurance your relationship won’t change – that you won’t leave Be ready for questions or not

16 Sex offender issues Broke the law, hurt others and you Consequences for breaking the law Crossed boundaries, did not honor my values, did not respect your Mom or the other person My behaviors have consequences for you too. Not fair to you. You did nothing wrong. This is not your fault. I am responsible.

17 Press Release Who needs to know what? Family, close friends – best support systems Disclose general information, take responsibility for misdeeds, id recovery tasks What you need from them Willingness to answer questions, what is private Others

18 Group Activity Group of 4-6 In 30 minutes, using your recovery values, create a conversation about pornography you’d have with your 15 yr old who got minimal information about addiction when he was 10, early in your recovery. If love what you’ve done, select a speaker Share with group How would it change if you’d found pornography on his computer?

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