How Do You Explain Alcoholism to Children?


Alcoholism is a disease; it’s also a demon that scares most family members because they don’t understand how it acts or what it looks like.

Worse, many family members can’t wrap their minds around how their mom or dad’s behavior–how the disease looks, much like the itchy bumps of chicken pox–is not anyone’s fault.

Children are often the most innocent victims of alcoholism, suffering what Lisa Frederiksen refers to as secondhand drinking.

An age-appropriate explanation

Help for talking with children has arrived.  Carolyn Hannan Bell, a practicing psychotherapist in New Jersey, has written two beautiful books for children.  One is called Daddy’s Disease, Helping Children Understand Alcoholism and the other is Mommy’s Disease, Helping Children Understand Alcoholism.

Little Tommy and Mila–and their respective dogs Murphy and Annie–learn about their parent’s disease through the explanations of the other parent in Bell’s books.

There is a chicken pox story that plays out in each book, offering an opportunity to explain that their schoolmates didn’t ask to get chicken pox.  In much the same way, neither of their parents could control getting alcoholism.  You can almost feel the child saying, “ohhhhhh.”

Bell tells another story about trick or treating on Halloween.  In the books, when the children get home, their parents tell them they can only have two pieces of candy before bed.  But they want more!

Later, while trying to go to sleep, the candy is the only thing they can think about.  So they sneak down to the kitchen and eat so much candy they’re sick the next day and can’t go to school.

And the school day was one neither Tommy nor Mila wanted to miss.  But there are consequences of our behavior.

The story also subtly describes the obsessive nature of alcoholism.

Parents, read these books to your children!

Often during heated, tense moments when adults don’t even know the answers to confusing questions about the disease, children sit confused and alone.

This pair of books are the solution and necessary reading for every family dealing with the disease of addiction.  Start when children are young; use the scenarios in these books and help the kids in your life have an early understanding.

Think about how the stigma of addiction can be lessened for future generations!  Less shame, less confusion, more love and acceptance.

Ms. Bell has two winners here and B Here Today wholeheartedly endorses them.

For more information about Bell and her work, go to

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