“I’m hoping you or your readers can help me with a big life thing, hopefully a big change. My dad is very close to my family, and an alcoholic. On Monday morning he asked me to drive him to detox, which was amazing and a day I thought would never come. But I was home with my three-year-old daughter, so she came with us. It wasn’t traumatic but it was different and strange and she knows something is going on. Plus there are all these FEELINGS happening all over the place that she’s picking up on. Monday, we told her that Grandpa was sick, and was going to stay in the hospital until he gets better. Today, she asked why he was sick and we told her she couldn’t catch what he had, he was born with it (why did that come out of my mouth?!) and that he is getting better.
So… what’s next? I don’t know what will happen in terms of detox, if he goes to rehab, when we will hear from him, what he will even be like. How do I help my kid understand what is happening at an age-appropriate level? If anyone else has gone through this with a parent, spouse, or other loved one, it would be so, so helpful to me to hear how they communicated with their children.
And yeah, I have a therapist, a good one. “
The baby questions are always easier than the adult questions, aren’t they?
First, congratulations. I have no idea what’s going to happen with your dad, but the fact that he asked you to drive him is big and wonderful and made me tear up.
Now, I’ve recommended it a couple of times this week already under different circumstances, so here’s another recommendation for Al-Anon. The entire group is there to support you in your relationship (and parenting your kids through their relationship) with someone with a problem with alcohol. They know the patterns, they know the language, they know what you’re feeling. They’re there and they will help, and they’re free. You can go and they’ll be able to tell you what a typical pattern is for someone going into detox/rehab and what to do when he gets out, and also how to help your daughter through this.
You can find them here. Local in person meetings, and it looks like they have electronic meetings, too: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/
This is all complicated right now, but I think the simple answer you gave is good, and tells her what she needs to know without scaring her. Obviously when she’s older she’ll need to know specifics, but for now this is good. And what she’s also going to take out of this is that if she has a problem, you’re the person to go to, and also that she and you are the kind of people who help. Good lessons, both of those.
Has anyone else been in this situation from any side? Any good words for Anonymous?