"Kids, if you're honest and open with them, can forgive failings and setbacks," Ben Affleck tells PEOPLE

By Liz McNeil
February 27, 2020 10:01 AM
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In this week’s PEOPLE, Ben Affleck, 47, reflects on lessons he’s learned in recovery and how he talks to his kids about getting through tough times.

“A lot of the things that you learn in the process of dealing with addiction are good life lessons anyways,” he says. “Be honest, take responsibility for your mistakes and help other people.”

It’s a philosophy he shares with his three kids with ex-wife Jennifer Garner: Violet, 14, Seraphina, 11 and Sam, 8.

“Kids are resilient,” he says. “They appreciate the truth. Kids, if you’re honest and open with them, can forgive failings and setbacks, and they want to love you and respect you. That’s my approach to fatherhood.”

“I’ve talked to my kids pretty honestly about tough times,” he continues. “I try to be honest with them and say the most important thing is to be open and honest about how you’re feeling and when you’re not feeling good, to say this is difficult for me and to reach out to their parent and teachers.”

  • For more on Affleck, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday.
Ben Affleck
| Credit: A. Ware/NurPhoto via Getty Images

He makes it a point to be present and to love them. “It’s trial and error,” Affleck says. “You have to be able to forgive yourself as parents and say I’m not always going to do this perfectly. I’m going to do my best. I’m going to try my hardest. Sometimes I’m going to say and do the wrong thing but, like I said, kids are okay with that. If you’re honest and love them.”

And as the Oscar winner works hard on his sobriety, he tries to teach them by going forward.

“It’s important not to obsess and get into a bunch of negative thinking around relapses and setbacks because that isn’t helpful. What’s helpful is to stay positive and focus on the fact that I’m just the guy who’s doing good today.”

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck
| Credit: Shutterstock

It’s the same lesson that is reflected in Affleck’s new sports drama, The Way Back in which he plays Jack Cunningham, an alcoholic basketball coach hired by his alma mater to shape their unlikely team into champions, with a few life lessons along the way.

“Yes, there is addiction and alcoholism and divorce and there’s problems that everyday people go through,” he says, “But it’s also about the way we can overcome adversity and we can change and grow. You think it’s going to be about Jack’s teaching them how to win at basketball and ultimately it’s about something very different, how to live your life and function in the world.”

“The way that this character heals is by expressing himself by communicating by sharing with other people and I think that’s a good thing.”

The Way Back opens March 6.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.