How Can I Keep My Younger Son Safe From My Older Son’s Substance Use?

We work with a special group of moms and dads – Parent Coaches – who, just like you, have been affected by a child’s substance use. They are volunteers who receive special training from the Partnership and our clinical partner in order to help other families through similar struggles. In these blog posts, they answer parents’ most frequent questions.

This is often an understandable concern for parents. Younger siblings can and do suffer when there is substance use in the family. It is important to consider a plan for not only your older son with the substance use issues, but also for your younger son as well.

Be sure to provide one on one time with your younger son. A child who is doing well can be overlooked and not get the attention they normally would because of all the negative behavior of their older sibling. Do your best to attend your younger son’s sporting events, and other activities. If you need to miss an activity, take the time to explain why. Don’t assume that your younger son will understand.

Some things to consider as well are that your younger son may begin to idolize his older brother and his use. Other siblings take on the role of being the parent. They strive to be even more responsible and forget how to enjoy their childhood. Finally, some siblings find themselves caught in the middle of feeling like they should keep secrets for their siblings, yet also feel pressured to tell the parents about the use.

Self-care is important for your younger son as he will feel stressed as well, because of his older brother’s use. Use positive reinforcement whenever possible to acknowledge both of them when they exhibit positive behavior.

Studies show that younger siblings’ use of alcohol and tobacco increases when older siblings are already involved with drugs or alcohol, so consider reaching out to a counselor to help your younger son, your community church or an Alateen group.This will allow him space to share his feelings about his older brother’s use. Also, look for a prevention program in your community that you can attend together.

Explain to your younger son in an age appropriate way, that his brother is struggling. Let him know that you are doing what you can to get him the help that he needs to make healthier choices. By reinforcing what your younger son is doing well and taking time to give him personally attention and guidance, you have a better chance that your younger son will not have a substance use problem as well.

Cathy is one of our volunteer Parent Coaches. She, like all of our coaches, is a parent who 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.

Would you like to connect with one of our Specialists for one-on-one help and learn more about Parent Coaching? Email us to get started.