7 Tips on How to Discuss a Sibling’s Drug Addiction with Your Other Children

Substance use within a family is a devastating, gut-wrenching problem. It can tear at the very fiber of even the strongest family 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How do responsible parents communicate with their other healthy, children about the disease that has infected their other sibling? Confusion, uncertainty and insecurity abounds for children who don’t understand why their brother or sister is sleeping all day, acting crazy, looking funny and no longer participate with the family.

I believe that being honest and open to your child or children about their sibling’s substance abuse issues is respectful and fair. Don’t forget that children are very intuitive and if they see their parents speaking in hushed tones when it comes to their sibling or witness an emotional and/or physical change they will realize something is up.

Here are seven tips for parents on how to begin a conversation about substance abuse in the family:

1.) Pick an easy, comfortable time to chat with your kids. Maybe a picnic in the park or a meal at their favorite restaurant is a good backdrop.

2.) Though it is a big deal, try not to do so in the conversation. Parents should be able to tell the truth in a way that children are able to understand and prepare themselves for the changes that will happen in the family. For many kids, routine helps them feel safe. So if life becomes unpredictable, they will need help adjusting to the changes.

3.) Ask the kids if they are worried or concerned about what’s going on within the family. If they don’t come forth, leave it. Simply say that if they are confused, scared or upset about anything that they see or hear you are there for them anytime.

4.) If there have been volatile arguments within the family let the children know that they have nothing to do with the fighting and that you are sorry that they had to witness these outbreaks.

5.) The children should be told that regardless of what’s happening with their sibling that he or she loves them and, again, that they are not responsible.

6.) If younger children are aware that there is something wrong with their brother or sister, it is open, honest and healthy to tell them that he or she is sick at the moment and that mom and dad are doing everything they can to help him or her get well.

7.) If your other children are old enough, encourage them to seek support in an age-appropriate family support group to help them cope.

Whether your child is in grade school or college, the discussion about their sibling’s substance abuse issues is difficult, but it is the responsible parent that realizes the importance of an honest, open communication with all family members.

Blogger Carole Bennett, MA is author of the book “Reclaim Your Life – You and the Alcohol/Addict” (www.reclaimyourlifebook.com) and the founder of Family Recovery Solutions, a counseling center for family and friends of loved ones with a drug or alcohol problem.

Related Links:
How Drugs and Alcohol Affect a Family
My Parents Never Talked to Me about the Dangers of Drugs and Alcohol
Parenting Troubled Teens

Need to talk to someone?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or have a question about your child’s drug or alcohol use, call the Partnership’s Parent Helpline where you can speak with a trained and caring, master’s-level counselor at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373).

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    Cathy | Treatment Talk

    July 8, 2011 at 12:48 AM

    The siblings can find themselves being neglected as the parents focus on the addicted child. At a group meeting, I heard one mom say her child made the comment that even though their sibling was off at a therapeutic boarding school their sibling was not really gone. It’s hard for the kids that are making the right choices, when parents are not there for them. Hopefully as the situation stabilizes, the parents can refocus their attention to all the kids. Thanks.

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