How to Talk to Your Children About a Parent’s Alcohol Use Disorder: 8 Tips for an Honest Conversation

Talking to your children about a parent’s alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a delicate but necessary conversation. It’s important to approach this discussion with honesty, empathy, and age-appropriate information.

1. Choose the Right Time and Place

Select a calm and private setting for the conversation. Ensure that there is enough time for an uninterrupted discussion, and choose a moment when your children are relaxed and receptive. A quiet and comfortable environment will help them feel safe and open to talking.

2. Be Honest and Clear

Use simple and clear language to explain what alcohol use disorder is. Avoid using technical terms or sugar-coating the situation. Explain that AUD is a medical condition where a person has difficulty controlling their drinking, and it affects their behavior and health.

3. Use Age-Appropriate Language

Tailor your explanation to your children’s age and developmental level. Younger children need simple explanations, while older children and teenagers can handle more detailed information. Ensure that they understand that AUD is not their fault and that they are not responsible for the parent’s behavior.


4. Validate Their Feelings

Acknowledge and validate your children’s emotions. They may feel scared, confused, angry, or sad. Let them know that it’s okay to feel these emotions and that their feelings are normal and valid. Encourage them to express their thoughts and concerns openly.

5. Reassure Them of Their Safety and Stability

Children need to feel safe and secure, especially when dealing with a parent’s AUD. Reassure them that they are loved and that you will take care of them. Explain any changes that may occur, such as new routines or living arrangements, and emphasize that these changes are meant to ensure their well-being.

6. Emphasize That AUD Is a Disease

Help your children understand that AUD is a disease, not a moral failing or a choice. Explain that the parent with AUD needs help and treatment, just like someone with any other illness. This perspective can reduce feelings of blame or shame and promote empathy.


7. Encourage Open Communication

Create an environment where your children feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their feelings. Let them know that they can come to you anytime to talk about their concerns. Regular check-ins can help you gauge how they’re coping and provide ongoing support.

8. Seek Professional Help

Consider involving a therapist or counselor who specializes in working with children affected by AUD. Professional support can provide your children with additional coping strategies and a safe space to express their emotions. Family therapy can also help improve communication and strengthen family bonds.

Talking to your children about a parent’s alcohol use disorder is challenging but essential. By choosing the right time and place, being honest and clear, using age-appropriate language, validating their feelings, reassuring them of their safety, emphasizing that AUD is a disease, encouraging open communication, and seeking professional help, you can provide the support and understanding your children need. These conversations can help them navigate the complexities of living with a parent who has AUD and foster a sense of resilience and security.