Many people often refer to addiction as a family disease. This is because everyone in the family, especially the children, are impacted by a loved one’s substance abuse. That’s why for International Children’s Book Day, we’re taking a look at five children’s books about addiction that discuss drugs and alcohol.
Many children don’t entirely understand why their parents, siblings, or other family members might act a certain way. It can be confusing and upsetting for them to have someone they love go through so many ups and downs when they drink or use.
If you or someone you love has a child impacted by addiction, children’s books can be a great resource. Make sure to check out these five books about substance abuse to help your child get through this family disease.
My Dad Loves Me, My Dad has a Disease: A Child’s View of Living with Addiction, by Claudia Black
My Dad Loves Me, My Dad has a Disease is a workbook that’s unafraid to tackle the topic of addiction head-on. As stated in the title, this book teaches children that addiction is a disease that people suffer from. Created for children aged five through twelve, this workbook helps children express themselves during a fragile period of development.
Because it is written from a child’s perspective, this book allows children to understand their own feelings. The book is designed to help children who are very young openly speak about their own family experiences with addiction. All illustrations and stories in the workbook were drawn and written by young children with at least one alcoholic parent.
Children growing up in families with addiction issues learn too young that they can’t freely talk about their experiences. By using this workbook as a medium for expression, children can better understand themselves and how addiction is impacting their family.
The author, Claudia Black, was also raised in a family of alcoholics. As a result, she created this workbook to prevent children from suffering from the same loneliness she did as a child.
My Big Sister Takes Drugs, by Judith Vigna
My Big Sister Takes Drugs is a fictional illustrated children’s book that describes how siblings’ drug abuse can impact children. This story follows Paul and his sister Tina, who makes friends with the wrong crowd after moving somewhere new.
A very stripped-down story, this book shows children the sacrifices a family makes in a way that will resonate with them. Paul watches Tina withdraw from the family and get lost in her new friends and lifestyle, which makes him sad. It also shows that getting better requires sacrifices, like when Paul can’t go to soccer camp because they need to pay for Tina’s rehab.
Most significantly, it shows Paul’s fear that Tina might never be able to recover or get better. For some children, this can put their feelings into words and help them with what they might be going through.
An Elephant in the Living Room, by Jill M. Hastings
Another workbook designed to help the children of alcoholics is An Elephant in the Living Room. It describes the fear children often feel when having to tiptoe around the “elephant” of alcoholism in their family.
Often used by healthcare professionals, this book helps children understand and cope with the reality of addiction in their families. A good resource, it helps explain addiction and the psychology behind its impact on childhood development.
Because children will copy their family’s behaviors, they learn at a young age that they shouldn’t talk about the “elephant.” Introducing this workbook to them will help them begin talking about hard things in a productive and healthy manner.
Up and Down the Mountain: Helping Children Cope With Parental Alcoholism, by Pamela Leib Higgins
Up and Down the Mountain is another illustrated storybook describing the roller coaster that is living with an alcoholic parent. This book was designed and published with the intention of giving children of alcoholics hope that their parents will get better.
The book opens with Jenny, the main character, wondering if her father will make it to her sixth grade graduation. Children, like Jenny, often blame themselves for their family’s unhappiness because they don’t understand what’s happening.
As referenced in the title, some days dealing with an alcoholic dad are like roller coaster rides for Jenny. The book ends on a positive note, with Jenny seeing her dad in the audience and knowing there’s hope for him.
Critters Cry Too, by Anthony Curcio
In Critters Cry Too, a fantastical illustrated children’s story, addiction is explained in a way that even the youngest of children might understand. A fully-illustrated 32 pages, this book follows Calvin the Critter and his experience watching those he loves fall into an addiction.
A wonderful allegory for addiction, this book presents addiction and dependency in a way that children can identify with. Although the Critters had been happy with their lives before “whateveritwas,” or “cookies,” came, once they started eating them it was all they wanted.
Over the course of the book, Calvin follows advice and talks to loved ones to alleviate his sadness. Although he can’t save all the Critters himself, he learns how to love himself and find himself despite the sadness.
Talking to Children About Addiction
Addiction impacts everyone in a family, and giving children avenues to express themselves and feel heard is important. The more children know about addiction and substance abuse, the less they’ll feel responsible for their family members’ actions.
Although not a foolproof measure, education can be the best way to prevent the cycle of addiction from continuing. The more children know and understand how addiction and substance abuse is impacting their families, the better.
If you or a loved one is struggling, we’re here to help them get the treatment they need. Reach out to Recovery Unplugged today.