What to Do
Consider how the individual's alcohol or substance abuse is affecting your family. While advice for specific situations is beyond the scope of this article, consider providing a buffer for your toddler. Your primary job is to keep your child safe and healthy; you may decide not to visit a friend or relative or have him around if you know his habits will affect your child.
Get support. As with many challenging issues you will face as a parent, if you feel supported and have an outlet for your feelings about a family member's use, this will be felt by your toddler. The more supported you feel, the more available you can be for your child. Reach out to friends or trusted family members, or meet with a mental health professional to discuss your concerns for your child and for the addict.
Many families find that support groups such as Alanon provide comfort and information. (See "Resources" below for groups near you.)
Keep difficult adult conversations about addiction away from your toddler. Toddlers can't understand the complexities of this issue, but they will be affected by high emotions. Because they are egocentric at this stage in development, they may believe that they caused the adults to be angry and fear the loss of their parents' love.
Check out these helpful websites for families:
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
- National Association for Children of Alcoholics: Kids' Page
Here are a couple of book suggestions for older kids. (As with any children's book focusing on a sensitive issue, it is best for you to review and see if the details fit for your family and specifically, your child.)
- My Dad Loves Me, My Dad Has a Disease: A Child's View
- The Addiction Monster and the Square Cat
- When Someone You Love Abuses Alcohol or Drugs - A Guide for Kids
This information is intended to be a conversation starting point and not to replace consultation with a mental health professional. Knowing your child the way you do, adjust or edit this script and these recommendations to meet his or her needs and comprehension. If you have concerns about your toddler, contact your pediatrician and request a referral for a mental health professional who specializes in work with young children. Click here to find help for working with your child through this and other touchy topics.