Explaining dad’s drug abuse to young kids

This week I’m answering questions from readers.

Q: After 10 years of helping my husband fight the demons of his drug abuse, I’ve decided to get a divorce. We have three children under the age of 8, and I’m not sure how to explain their dad’s sickness to them.

A: The reasons for your divorce are a private matter between you and your spouse. Given the ages of your children, I’d be particularly cautious not to use the word “sickness” to describe your husband’s problems. This will generate lots of unnecessary anxiety and confusion on the part of the kids. Your children will be most concerned about how this will affect them, so offer them as much reassurance as possible.

I’m sure you’ll be very careful about the terms of visitation between the children and their father, as their dad’s problem raises serious questions about his ability to safely take care of such young children.

Q: My daughters’ friends are good kids, but they drive me crazy with their constant texting. I want them to feel comfortable at our house, but they never put those phones down and it’s irritating when we take them places. How do other parents deal with this?

A: Kids who are 12-17 years of age send an average of 60 text messages every day. Many of our children live a parallel existence in an electronic world, with ever-changing rules about the perceived necessity of always staying connected. A young teen recently told me that failure to respond to a text message within minutes was a sign of disrespect among her friends.

While we try to understand and accommodate to our teens’ worlds, they also have an obligation to be respectful of our expectations, as well. Consider the following rules at your house. No cell phone usage by anyone during meals, including eating out at restaurants. Power down all electronics at a specified time in the evening. If your teens’ friends accompany you to certain events, let them know when cell phones can and cannot be used.

Q: I read that some kids can be cured of autism. Is that true?

A: There is no cure for autism. The severe form of this disorder results in serious problems in communication, social interactions and development. Behavioral therapy for parents and kids can be very helpful in managing these symptoms, but the underlying disorder is permanent, typically resulting in the need for lifelong assistance.

Some professionals refer to Asperger’s syndrome as a milder form of autism. This disorder is characterized by problems in social interactions. These youngsters may talk a lot, avoid eye contact, perseverate on certain topics and misread or ignore social cues. Many of these children can learn more appropriate social skills and thus may be viewed as “cured” of their problem since they can function very well in society.

Next week: Mistakes made by parents in helping their kids manage their digital worlds.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in

3 menus we are DYING to try during Winter Restaurant Week this week
3 menus we are DYING to try during Winter Restaurant Week this week

We’ve really got to hand it to this year’s Winter Restaurant Week participants. The menus that keep rolling out are top-notch, as well as a great value. It would be almost impossible to attempt to try every Restaurant Week menu.  So to ease your foodie anxieties and help you decide, we’ve selected three menus that we think sound...
Pregnancy tests can be thrown off by timing
Pregnancy tests can be thrown off by timing

The moment a woman finds out she is pregnant can be life-altering, which makes it that much more important to conduct a home pregnancy test when it will provide the most accurate results. In fact, according to a local obstetrician, the timing of a home pregnancy test is much more vital than the type of pregnancy test a woman chooses from her local...
Obesity surgery safer than traditional treatments, study suggests
Obesity surgery safer than traditional treatments, study suggests

Having surgery to treat obesity may seem like a drastic option, but a new study suggests it may actually be a safer route than more traditional options. Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Clalit Research Institute in Israel, recently published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association...
Get fit: 3 mistakes to avoid while exercising

One of the greatest benefits of exercise is that it enables you to be more in tune with your body. During a workout you learn how your body reacts to different types of activity. Uncomfortable responses associated with exercise such as muscle soreness are normal, while other situations can be an indication of a more serious problem. Over-training and...
How Dayton changed the Bombecks — and how the Bombecks changed Dayton
How Dayton changed the Bombecks — and how the Bombecks changed Dayton

Growing up in Dayton left an indelible imprint on Bill and Erma Bombeck – and they, in turn, now leave an enduring legacy in their hometown. Bill Bombeck died Jan. 12 in Phoenix, Ariz., and he soon will be buried alongside his wife in Dayton’s historic Woodland Cemetery. But the couple will live on in the hearts of many friends in the Dayton...
More Stories