Children handle the problem of their sibling’s substance use in their own unique ways. Some try a heart-to-heart talk, others want to help — and can become too involved. Others still prefer to ignore the problem altogether.
One of the best ways to prevent negative feelings from your other children is to be sure to spend quality time with them on a regular basis. Do what you can to avoid a situation where everyone is focused on the child with the substance use issue. Your other children will feel neglected and taken for granted, which can cause resentment.
Reach out to your other children on a regular basis, so they have an opportunity to share their feelings about the situation. Your other children may feel embarrassed by their brother’s substance use, and may even be teased or ostracized by their friends, depending on their age.
It is understandable that your other children may feel angry and resentful, so provide opportunities for them to reach out and get help. This way, they will have the opportunity to express their feelings and have them validated. They can receive counseling individually or participate in family counseling. Other options include support groups such as Alateen, which can be helpful for them to connect with other teens who are in a similar situation. For older siblings, SMART Recovery for Families and Friends provides in-person and online meetings. Al-Anon is another support group that offers help for siblings.
The more you can reach out to all your children with compassion and understanding, the easier it will be to unify your family once again.
Want to connect with another parent who's been there?
Cathy is one of our volunteer Parent Coaches. Like all of our coaches, she knows first-hand the challenges of helping a child with addiction. In addition to their own experiences, all parent coaches receive extensive and on-going training.