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Information to help talk to children about their parents’ alcohol and other drug use

When a parent drinks too much alcohol is a guide to helping practitioners/carers/parents answer questions children may have.

Protection through participation: Involving children in child-safe organisation discusses great ways of talking with children to learn about safety and risk. It is produced by the CFCA (part of the Australian Institute of Family Studies).

You are not on your own: A booklet to help children and adults talk about a parent’s drinking. (Please note this booklet is from the United Kingdom and contains UK references.)

Books to read with children or young people

  • Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (2011), Wishes And Worries: Coping with a Parent Who Drinks TooMuch, Tundra Books, Ontario. This book is a way to open a discussion between adult and child about alcoholism and parents.  
  • Eaton Heegaard, M (1996), When a Family is in Trouble: Children Can Cope with Grief from Drug and Alcohol, Woodland Press, Minnesota. This book gives parents, counsellors and others an approach to help children 6–12 understand and cope with the problems addicted families face.
  • Hastings, JM and Typpo, MH (1984), An Elephant In The Living Room, Hazelden Publishing, Minnesota.
    This is an illustrated story to help children understand and cope with the problem of alcohol and other drugs in the family. 
  • Higgins PL (1994), Up And Down The Mountain: Helping Children Cope with Parental Alcoholism, Small Horizons, USA. This book begins on the day of Jenny’s sixth grade graduation and she wonders if her alcoholic father will attend. The book shows children that their parents’ alcoholism is not their fault.
  • Jones, P (1983), The Brown Bottle, Hazelden Publishing, Minnesota.
    This is an illustrated fable explaining alcohol dependence to young children.
  • Tidy, S (2009), The Flying Dream, NSW Department of Community Services.
    This is a children’s book about children in foster care because of their mother’s problems with drugs and mental illness.

Services and supports

Alateen is a fellowship of young Al-Anon members, usually teenagers, whose lives have been affected by someone else's drinking. Find out more about what helps children and a list of meetings in their local area.

Dovetail provides clinical advice and professional support to workers, services and communities who engage with young people affected by alcohol and other drug use.

Out of home care toolbox The Out of home care toolboxwebsite has information and resources to support practitioners with understanding and engaging with children and young people where alcohol and other drug use occurs.

Kids helpline (1800 55 1800) offers phone counselling for children and young people and resources for parents.

Research and further reading

Long-term foster care for abused and neglected children: How foster parents can help in healing the trauma has ideas about helping a child learn to regulate their feelings, raising self-esteem, helping a child gain a sense of control, and understanding regression.

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