How do I talk about Alcoholism with my Child?
There are a few important issues to address when discussing Alcoholism with your child. First, think about who has it. If it is you, it is important to be honest and open with your child. It may be beneficial to have another responsible adult with you for support when talking to your child as well.
Here are some points to go over, remember be open to any questions that your child may have!
How do people get it? Doctors don't know all the reasons why people become alcoholics. Some start out drinking a little bit and end up hooked on alcohol. A person might drink to forget problems or to calm nerves, but then they end up needing alcohol to feel normal. Once a person loses control over drinking, he or she needs help to stop drinking.
Is there a cure? There is no cure for alcoholism except stopping the disease process by stopping the drinking. People with alcoholism who have completely stopped drinking are called "recovering alcoholics". Recovering alcoholics can lead healthy, happy, productive lives.
How can I ( the child) make it better? Unfortunately there is not anything anyone else can do. The person who has the disease must get help for themselves. The person with the disease must WANT to get help as well. The only thing you can do is pray for this person and remember that it's NOT YOUR FAULT! But, children can talk with someone they trust (parents, teachers etc. about how they are feeling)
How many children have alcoholic parents? About 11 million so your child is not alone! You probably know people right now struggling with the disease. (if appropriate, discuss who.)
How is my CHILD feeling?
For starters, ASK! It is important for there to be open communication between you and your child about the existence of the disease in your lives.
Here are some other ideas:
- Guilt . The child may see himself or herself as the main cause of the mother's or father's drinking.
- Anxiety . The child may worry constantly about the situation at home. He or she may fear the alcoholic parent will become sick or injured, and may also fear fights and violence between the parents.
- Embarrassment . Parents may give the child the message that there is a terrible secret at home. The ashamed child does not invite friends home and is afraid to ask anyone for help.
- Inability to have close relationships . Because the child has been disappointed by the drinking parent many times, he or she often does not trust others.
- Confusion . The alcoholic parent will change suddenly from being loving to angry, regardless of the child's behavior. A regular daily schedule, which is very important for a child, does not exist because bedtimes and mealtimes are constantly changing.
- Anger . The child feels anger at the alcoholic parent for drinking, and may be angry at the non-alcoholic parent for lack of support and protection.
- Depression . The child feels lonely and helpless to change the situation.
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2006)
The feelings your child may have are very important! It is important to address any concerns or questions. Remember the disease itself breeds secrets and hiding one way to combat this is to keep Honesty in the fore front!
Here's a simple activity for you and your child:
-Ask your child to draw a picture describing how the feel at the present time.
- Now, ask how your child to draw a picture describing how they feel when (fill in the blank) drinks.
-Lastly, ask your child to draw a picture describing how they feel when they are happy.
*if the child is old enough journal entries may be more age appropriate. Discuss the pictures/ journal entries with your child.
KIDS ONLY (help from a cool adult is ok too!)
What have we learned so far?
Is it our fault a person we love is an ALCOHOLIC?
Nope! There is not one thing we can do about it. The person I love will NOT get better even if I do better in school or sports. The person I love will NOT get better even if I am a good boy or girl. It SUCKS but, the person I love must do get better on their own and because they want to!
Could I be the reason they don't get help?
No Way ! The disease has nothing to do with me.
It's good to know and remember:
The 7 C' s
I didn't Cause it.
I can't Cure it.
I can't Control it.
I can help Care for myself by Communicating my feelings,
Making healthy Choices , and
By Celebrating myself.
-National Association of Children of Alcoholics (2007)