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Old 06-14-2018, 04:08 PM   #1 (permalink)

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Advice on how to discuss Alcoholism with children/pre-teens

Hi everyone, I wanted to get some feedback and advice on how to speak to my kids 11 and 6 year on their father's continued alcohol abuse. We are currently divorcing and haven't lived together in almost 2 years. I never addressed his drinking with my kids until after he moved out. I was afraid I would say the wrong thing to them. I went to therapy right after we separated. My therapist suggested that I give an explanation on why we separated and to discuss what they have seen at home (their dad drinking daily, ignoring them and me, peeing in the house, stumbling and falling). She suggested that I address what they have seen so that they do not think that is normal behavior.

They now visit their dad at their grandma's house in which there are two alcoholics in the home (their dad and uncle). They describe seeing their uncle drink from early hours in the morning continuing throughout the day. Beers can everywhere in the house. I fear they again will think this is normal behavior. Before they go to visit I talk to them about safety: To make sure to buck up while in the car, if there is any drinking by their father please let me know, if there is any uncomfortable/dangerous situations please stay away from it and let me know, I do tell them also to have fun but be careful. Sometimes I feel super paranoid. I think to myself maybe I am too paranoid and need to relax but then I think considering the circumstances I am not. I want to do whats best for my kids. So by continuing to talk to them about their father's alcohol abuse I feel is the best way to hopefully deter them from participating in that type of habit when they get older. How do you talk to your kids about your ex/significant other's continued alcohol abuse? (Oh and STBAXH seems to think by me addressing his continued alcohol abuse with the kids I am "talking s**t about him *rolling eyes*)
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Old 06-14-2018, 04:51 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Teen Links
There are some good resources for teens on these links. They might be helpful to you and your children:

Family Teens Group - Support For Teens Affected by Alcoholism or Addiction within the Family.

Miracles In Progress Family Teens Group - For Teens whose lives are adversely effected by Alcoholism within the Family. Webmaster: John Freifeld
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I dont know where Im going, Im not sure where I've been
There's a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me
My life is worth the living, I dont need to see the end.

John Denver
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Old 06-14-2018, 09:08 PM   #3 (permalink)

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Check out this website from Betty Ford children’s program:
The children’s program is for 7-12 year olds. I don’t know if you could order the book series (my kid got the whole series from attending the program ) but it is really good. It explains addiction and also feelings (Beamer is a lightbulb and he has different colors depending on his feelings). I thought it was really good and I also think they have the books as video clips on the site (I’m on my iPad and you need adobe flash for the site so I can’t check)
I know they have the Betty Ford kids program in Cali and it looks like you live there, it actually would,be really worth it for your kids to go to their weekend program. It is 4 days long and the last couple of days parents are involved (which could just be you since your XH is till drinking). I realize cali is huge and it may not be anywhere near you but if it is doable, even if you have to travel a little ways, I think it is totally worth it. My kid was almost 7 when she went (they should be in first grade so they can read and write some ) and it was really good for her to learn about alcoholism and addiction. The Beamer books are awesome and it was really good for her to be around other kids that went though it . It cost money although you basically pay what you can afford really.
She was 6 when her dad ended up having to go to rehab (I gave him an ultimatum becuse i was done, luckily he finally was in a place where he himself was in a place where he wanted to stop which is why the ultimatum worked) and she had absolutely no clue (as did no one else) that her dad drank too much because he always hid it. He was just always tired and grumpy from work....
I finally told her the real reason he had to go to the special hospital (he was ordered to go to rehab because of his job and it all happened in less than 24 hours and was not expected so we had no time to prepare). I had found a couple of awesome books (not in English unfortunately so i can’t recommend them)l one talked about it without ever mentioning alcohol but talked about a potion that some guy was selling in town to make the adults happy but it only made them happy for a while and then they needed more and more of the potion to be happy. Once the man was chased out of town the adults got better again. The other one talked about a girl whose dad drank too much and she was always worried about how he would react, or once again dad missed a swim meet, or was grumpy and didn’t want to do anything. Once I told my kid the real reason she recognized that his behaviors were related to the alcohol.
I presented (and so did Betty Ford ) alcohol as an illness. Something in their brain makes them need alcohol and over time they need more and more and they can’t stop because their brain tells them to drink. It is something they don’t have control over and that they need help to fix it. I also told her that not everyone that drinks is like that. That I can drink 1 or 2 or even 3 drinks but then I can stop. I also don’t need or want to drink every day. But in people with an addiction problem it doesn’t work that way. They can’t stop.
You telling your kids about his alcoholism is not talking **** about him unless you say it in a mean and derogatory way (like daddy is a useless good for nothing drunk vs daddy has the alcohol disease that makes it so he cannot stop drinking). He is a drunk so not rational. I’ve been with my RAH for 16 years and he has stopped several times, the longest was a year. But it was alway a secret and no one knew about it because that way he would not have to take accountability for it. And when he relapsed no one was none the wiser (he would say he had to lose weight, his BP was too high etc while he quit drinking for a while).
Your kids need to know what is going on, they more than likely already know and are probably coming up with their own versions of what is happening. It is much better that they know the truth. It is probably less scary than the scenarios they come up with. They need to know for their own safety since they spend time with their AF. In the long run they will be much better off knowing. It will help them understand the dysfunction. Hiding it is going to backfire and they will grow up with the dysfunction that will continue to follow them the rest of their lives. Better that they understand now why their dad acts the way he does (because he has the alcohol disease and not because he is an ass.....even though he may be ) and that it is not normal. Of course he doesn’t want you to tell them his secret because that makes him look bad, what he doesn’t realize is that he is doing an awesome job of that himself more than likely through his actions, actions speak louder than words after all.
If at all possible, go to the Betty Ford kids program with them, if not at least check out the Beamer books. My kid won’t talk to her friends about her dads addiction because she says they don’t understand addiction (which is true). So t was nice for her to be around other kids. They also have follow up weekends every couple of months for the kids that have npbeennto thr program and my kid always enjoys it. I feel like it has also helped her talk about hard stuff more.
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Old 06-14-2018, 10:15 PM   #4 (permalink)
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This is just my opinion (I have no science to back this up!).

I think it's probably a good idea to let them know, to some degree, how it affects you too. Perhaps the younger child is a bit too young to understand any of that right now but your older child probably would.

Discussing how it makes you feel and how it affected your life is important. It's probably not a conversation you will have often but sharing your experience (age appropriate, content appropriate) lets them know that you are not to "blame".

Now, that might sound a bit ridiculous but, as I've said before, I have read a few posts at SR about the non-drinking parent being estranged from older children.

There are probably many reasons but I think if you grow up with an alcoholic they are usually pandered to. Go to your room and play, Dad will be home soon (everyone knows why you have to go to your room). Eggshells, don't wake him up, don't talk too loud, go and see what he wants if he calls out etc etc.

That does not stop when the parents divorce, the alcoholic is used to being tip-toed around and the children are used to their roles.

So now you have the one parent being pandered to and that other sober parent who is screwing everything up! Furthermore they abandoned the pandered one!

It probably goes against the grain right now to look out for yourself in this way but I think it's an important relationship building block with children who have been exposed and continue to be exposed to an alcoholic parent
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Old 06-15-2018, 01:40 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I have found a couple of the entries in cynical one's blog to have some great information:

"Age appropriate conversations about drugs and alcohol"

and perhaps...

"TCOAs: Teen Children of Addicted Parents"

There seems to be a great deal of information out there. You know your children and what will work best as you read through it all! Good luck!!
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Old 06-15-2018, 05:33 AM   #6 (permalink)

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I also forgot to say, make sure to tell them that it is not their fault their dad is drinking, it isn’t anything anyone does or did that makes him drink. It is the disease/brain that makes him drink. Often kids will feel like if only they were better kids etc that their parent would stop. Very important for them they understand that it has zero to do with them. Tiptoeing around the situation, everyone covering for him and making excuses....that will give kids great examples of codepency and that is not a setting you want them to grow up with. That’s why it is so important for them to know the truth and have you work on you and help your kids through this. What you AH thinks is really irrelevant at this point since he’s an active user. You need to think about you and your kids future. He’s obviously in no position to make reasonable decision about that sort of stuff because he is not thinking rationally. His biggest concern is when he can have his next drink. You do what you need to do for your kids and you. That is setting the right example and that self care is important and that they are not responsible for others and their feelings. I didn’t grow up in an alcoholic home but became codepedent of different dysfunction in the home. And it is hard to get rid of that. I’m glad I have a chance of avoiding that with my kiddo.
If you aren’t in individual counseling I would highly suggest that you do, it has been a life and sanity saver for me and I’m not one that would easily go to counseling.
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Old 06-16-2018, 10:36 AM   #7 (permalink)

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Thank you everyone for the feedback. These are really great sources and I'm going to look into. I know that it is an important subject to continue to discuss with my kids as their father continues to abuse alcohol. We have a family therapy session in a few weeks. I really want to bring up his alcoholism. So we can openly discuss it with therapist.
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Old 06-16-2018, 10:55 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Your divorce settlement includes a beautiful, protective stance that will help your children more than simply talking. Education is great and necessary. So is enforcing the court decree, if it's going to be of use to your children.

"No alcohol on the premises."

Simple. Difficult. More to explore here. It looks like God provided a huge gift here. If you don't know how it gets enforced, God does.

Prayer. Meditation. All is well.
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Old 06-16-2018, 12:35 PM   #9 (permalink)
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while honest, factual communication with the children is essential, make sure you don't OVER talk it. this does not need to be a daily topic....and it shouldn't always be a PUSH of information ON them......give them some space and time to absorb and then ask questions when and if they need to.

many parents here have outfitted their younger children with a phone so that they can call in case of emergency or if things get out of hand. i don't think a 10 year old needs the latest iphone, but there are basic phones that are age appropriate.

lastly, make sure they don't feel like they are there as investigative journalists and must report everything back to you.
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