FAQ

Find answers to some of the more frequently asked questions on the Forums.

Forums guidelines

Our guidelines keep the Forums a safe place for people to share and learn information.

Announcement Icon
You can win one of three $200 gift cards. Complete our survey by 5pm, 30 June 2024 AEST to enter the draw. Your response will be anonymous so you can't be identified.

should you tell kids truth about parent alcoholism?

nogo17
Community Member
Hi; a question about alcoholism and kids? Is it best to tell kids the truth their father is an alcoholic ? Ive had to kick my husband out 4 weeks ago begging him to go to rehab and get help. Of course he hasent !! Was wishful thinking. I told the kids he has to go to hospital to get better then he can come back home... Its been 4 weeks and now ive come to terms with him not caring about us on little bit; addiction is too strong.. hes left; still drinking; and not getting help. Not sure what to tell the kids now.. as my 8 year son is asking when hes coming back. My 3 daughters dont seem to care as much and are a bit relieved hes gone. ... thoughts? Also anyone know about alcoholism and memory loss???? Before he left i noticed a deterioration in cognitive side of things..Thanks in advance..
11 Replies 11

geoff
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni
hello Nogo, pleased you have posted this question, knowing that your older daughter is talking with him, however your other daughters have already picked up that something is wrong, and whether they have known about him being an alcoholic is very possible and how he behaved is the reason why they are pleased that he has been kicked out of the house.
With your 8 year old, well he would have been asking his sisters all those questions that you are doubtful of telling him, so he would be tuned into why he isn't living with you anymore, but wouldn't actually now what being an alcoholic means, to him he sees his dad as someone who likes to have his beer everyday, but you have kicked him out of the house, so he is wondering why.
It is better that they know all the facts, whether you say he's an alcoholic or whether you say that he is sick and needs the alcohol to help him cope or whether you tell him that his drinking is doing too much damage to the family, and if he responds by saying 'it's not hurting him', then you have to be honest and tell him.
He will be hearing different stories at school about how his mates have a dad who drinks everynight, so then he needs to know what your husband is doing and why.
He will have a cognitive effect, but this depends on what type of alcohol he drinks, either a full bottle of scotch or a case of stubbies and how long this has been happening.
Please can you get back to us, as you too will need support with this. Geoff.

nogo17
Community Member
Thankyou for replying geoff- a friend of my 6 year old daughter invited her around for a play- but my husband wouldnt take her (on a weekend i was at work) , so the mum had to come pick her up and bring her home- my 11 year old is also friends with this girls sister and stays there sometimes to.. the mother said to my 11 year old said whats dad doing the weekend? Sitting around drinking and watching TV and laughed? I havent told her about any of our problems as she isnt a close friend just a school friend. But she must have picked up something as she doesnt speak to me anymore and the kids dont see each other any more. Im sure she has told other's around the school. Same with my son; a mum took him to the local pool then never heard from again... ive mentioned to the kids hes sick but i think your right they dont fully understand. The memory thing has been going on a few months... doesnt remember im at work and came inside searching for me asking kids where i was; came out of bathroom after shower no pants on and my 2 daughters saw him and he didnt bother covering up (would never do this normally); forgets things he says to me and denies ; forgets after school activities; heaps of things. I know the brain rewires a different way with alcoholism and there is alcoholic demntia; i just really wonder what stage he is at ? And if the damage is long term.. he has so many other health concerns as well so they will no doubt have an impact soon. Just left to pick up the pieces with the kids- but im definantly not the first and wont be the last.. x

Kazzl
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi nogo17, I think it's great you're seeking information and advice on this. Well done for posting.

I'm nearly 6 years sober, and absolutely no expert on how to handle the situation with kids (ie I was the one drinking), I have a few thoughts, things I've learned since I stopped drinking.

Firstly, there is a very good chance your older kids know what's going on. Kids have a way of working out what we're not telling them, and reading between the lines of what other people say. Personally, I think they should hear it from you, in whatever way you think they will understand and cope with it. Emphasise that it is nothing to do with them or their behaviour - ie it's not their fault, or you fault. It's an illness and dad needs help, but only he can decide to get that help. Maybe also tell them that while alcoholism is a bad and destructive thing (illness), people who are alcoholics are not bad people (they are sick).

Once you've opened the door for discussion, encourage them to tell you how they feel about it. Let them talk, and keep letting them talk. Be positive, reassure them that you are a family and you all need to care for each other and share how you feel.

If you feel things are becoming too difficult or you are lost in how to deal with it, a family counsellor might be the go. This would not be a new situation to them by any means and they might be able to give you strategies to help you cope and support your kids.

Very best wishes to you

Kaz

nogo17
Community Member
Thankyou so much Kaz; and congrats on your soberiety. Its great to hear when people come through the other side of addiction. I just have to remember we cant sit around waiting for him to get rehab we have to move on with our lives; as it may never happen. I will have another discusion with the kids sourrounding why hes gone; and how its not their fault. And tell them there is a chance he may never get better. If things get to complicated ill look inyo a counselor. Its so hard... Thanks again x

Zeal
Community Member

Hi nogo17,

This is a difficult situation. It's great that you are a supportive Mum to your children, and that you have kept them safe and well. I truly hope your husband will seek help, as seeking professional treatment gives him a chance to learn new coping skills and to gain strength. Giving tough love to someone with an addiction usually doesn't have the desired effect. With addiction recovery, an all-or-nothing approach isn't helpful. Your husband will need to take gradual steps in his recovery, which involves learning new behaviours and coping skills. Relapses happen, and abstinence is not a realistic way to approach recovery.

Is your husband staying with his parents or a friend? Hopefully he has a safe place to stay. I recommend that you visit the Family Drug Support website: http://www.fds.org.au/ This organisation provides support and information to family members of people with drug or alcohol issues.
Your three daughters could be more affected by your husband's absence than it seems. Maybe they are just relieved right now because they are no longer directly exposed to your husband's alcohol problem. They probably have other conflicting feelings, but may be keeping these to themselves. Perhaps they don't know how to react and are feeling confused emotionally...

With regard to your son, I agree with Geoff that honesty is important. Using gentle language appropriate to your son's age is also crucial. Unfortunately I haven't been able to locate specific information about talking to young children about alcoholism. Maybe someone else on this forum has been in a similar situation and can offer personal advice. Alternatively, you could ring the Family Drug Support helpline on 1300 368 186 and ask for their advice. This Australian service is available 24/7.

I hope you and your family are doing okay. If you'd like to talk further, you can post back here at any time 🙂

Best wishes,

Zeal

nogo17
Community Member
Thank you zeal for the info is very helpful thank you. Yes your right the tough love thing doesn't work- I'm powerful now more than ever as over the past 4 months I have solidly researched everything I can on alcoholism. I thought kicking him out and telling him he would need supervised visits with his kids until he undergoes rehab would be the wake up call he needed. Boy was I wrong, now he is staying in someone's shed (so iheard) perhaps not true.. Just going to work then drinking and watch TV. He hasent communicated since he left. It's the hardest thing he hasent checked if the kids were OK- breaks my heart and theirs.. But I guess I need to come to terms that this is likely now our lives - a husband/ father lost to alcoholism. X

geoff
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni
hi Nogo, being an alcoholic and going to work puts him in danger of losing his job, because every chance he can get he will have a drink, then chew gum or lollies to conceal his breath, but eventually someone will catch him drinking and then he will be sacked.
I mentioned on your other post that if you contact Al-Anon then they will counsel your kids, but alcohol is only what he wants, nothing else, remember he's an alcoholic and there is nothing you or anyone else can do to help him, unless he decides to stop drinking, he can't be forced, yelled at screamed at to try and make him stop, because it will never work.
Tell your kids that he won't be returning unless he has detoxed for several months, a month is not long enough, because he's still susceptible, and when a difficult situation comes along, that's when he will go back to the grog.
As I said in your other post you haveto now think about filing for divorce, he won't care and probably that's what he would like, but he would never have the ability to do do it himself.
My wife (ex) divorced me for two reasons, one was because I always depressed and nothing she tried to do to help me never worked, and the other reason was because I was self medicating on alcohol, a drunk which only stopped when we were divorced and living separately, now I only drink socially, but many people are unable to do this, because one drink leads onto another and then another and with me I was having seizures that's how I can only drink socially. Geoff.

nogo17
Community Member
Theaps Geoff appreciate you reply. It's good to hear what goes through the alcoholic mind... It's unimaginabl to the non drinker. So happy with how far you have come- I'm sure if you didn't stop you wouldn't be here today helping others X

Kazzl
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi nogo, good to see you again and I'm glad you're getting good support here.

I just want to raise something that might be worth considering and perhaps talking with a counsellor or doctor about. Has your husband ever shown signs of depression, anxiety or unexplained hyperactivity? The reason I ask is that for many (not all) alcoholics, there's an underlying mental health problem that adds to their addiction. We self-medicate to escape what's happening in our heads, or to 'chase' feeling better. It's called dual diagnosis, or co-morbidity (of substance abuse and mental illness).

It's still very much the case that the only one who can make your husband quit drinking is your husband, but sometimes understanding what's behind it can help - him, and you. I know that a lot of partners and children of alcoholics come to feel the drinking and subsequent behaviour is a rejection of them. But it's not usually so. Could be there's illness there, and more likely he's rejecting himself.

I believe that was the case for me. I have bipolar disorder, undiagnosed at the time I was drinking. I knew I had depression though and the booze seemed to help me find oblivion. Fortunately, after a close encounter with permanent oblivion, I shocked myself into realising I had to get sober before anything else would improve.

I hope this doesn't upset you, or complicate things, but I think trying to understand reasons behind addiction - and knowing it's not you - can help. Hope so.

Very best to you hun

Kaz