It can be so very difficult to watch your family go through hard times and feel limited in your ability to help. When a family member misuses drugs or alcohol it can have an enduring effect on the whole family. Unfortunately, these effects are often not addressed by professionals as they tend to focus on the individual with the drug or alcohol problem. This is an important time for the family to come together.
Grandparents can play an important role. Often the relationship between a child and his/her grandparent(s) is like none other. Educate yourself, communicate to your family your concern and interest in helping. Stay close by making frequent contacts, email, texts, phone calls or visits, just to check in. This sends the message you’re there for them. Offer support and what grandparents are best at— unconditional love. Sometimes young people will talk to a grandparent about things they can’t or won’t talk to a parent about. If your grandchild discloses to you their drug use, try to listen without judgement and offer reassurances that you still love them and know they are strong enough and wise enough to make better decisions moving forward.
Be supportive — if they are taking drugs, it would be helpful to understand why. Make it clear that you’re there for them, and are willing to help them with any problems they’re having. If you grandchild confirms their drug use to you, you will have to tell his parents. Explain this to your grandchild and offer to talk to the parents together. Sadly, individuals with substance use disorders will sometimes, out of desperation, take advantage of family members. To protect yourself and your loved ones, make sure you are keeping your medications inaccessible. Medications should be kept in a locked medicine cabinet or lockbox and counted periodically to make sure that none has been taken. Medicine prescribed for a particular illness or injury should not be kept for later use.
Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open and talk freely and often to other family members — especially the parents to make sure you are all on the same page and addressing this family disease as a family. This will also help you to understand how the parents see your role in this. Respect the wishes of the parents in terms of the level of your involvement. It is not helpful to get involved beyond the level where they are comfortable. You can support by just being there as a non-judgmental ear.