How to explain addiction to 6 year old




Hello, my ex husband is an alcoholic who has just relapsed for the third time in 6 months. So far, I have ensured my 6 year old daughter has has had regular contact with him through supervised visits and regular testing. Every time I loosen the reigns and allow him more access eg unsupervised or overnight visits, he relapses. I now feel that the best thing for my daughter is to have no contact with him or very limited and supervised contact with him until his recovery is more stable. However I also feel my daughter is old enough now that I need to explain the situation to her so she understands why she won’t be spending as much time with her dad as she has done in the last couple of months. She is a very mature, perceptive and emotionally articulate child. Does anyone have any advice on what to say to her?

  • listener


    I'm very sorry to hear about your ex-husband's drinking and relapses. It must be so hard for you to navigate this situation as a mum to your daughter. You're not alone in this - many parents struggle to know what the best thing to do is in terms of contact and conversations with their children. You sound like a wonderful mum; the fact that you are a reliable and supportive parent to your daughter will help her so much.

    It's positive that you want to explain the situation a bit more to your daughter. Often being open and honest is the best way forward, as it can lessen any confusion children may have and also allow them to see that it's OK to talk openly about their own thoughts and feelings. Knowing what to say can be hard though, especially for younger children.

    There are lots of useful resources on the Nacoa website that might help you with those conversations. I will link a few resources below:

    Concerned others & professionals

    I really hope this is useful, and I hope you have support for yourself as well. Keep reaching out whenever you need to and take care of yourself,


  • mountainchaser

    Hi Carlsberg50,

    Really sorry to hear that your ex-husband has relapsed, and it is affecting your and your daughters life as well.

    From what you have described you are thinking of your daughter's feelings and how to have hard conversation - which is amazing! I hope some of the materials and links that Listener has suggested has given you ideas of how to have the conversation.

    I can add from my personal experience - when you have this conversation if you can emphasise to your daughter that it is no way shape or form any of her fault that dad is drinking. I know this might seem like common sense, but from when I was a kid I always thought that if I do something different, that I act in a certain way or do some things, then my parents will stop drinking. I was under impression that I can change that as I wanted the best parents I could have, and I wanted them to stop drinking. And that is just a lost battle, that leads to people-pleasing.

    It is important for your daughter to understand that it is his battle, and when he is ready he will fight it, and will show up for you both to be the best he can be.
    You mentioned your daughter is quite mature and perceptive, you can even try to explain what is alcoholism, addiction and that it is for that person to face it. You both can be there to support, encourage, guide, when he is ready.

    I wish someone would have explained that to me when I was a kid.

    Hope you will find a way how to go through this conversation, it sounds that you both have support in each other, wish you the best of luck!

  • henryvipart2

    Hi there,

    Thank you so much for sharing. I have lots of thoughts, but don't know how to get it down here. Basically, conversation and transparency is so key. Kids know much more than we often realise.

    Anyway, I love this vid from Josh Connolly about talking to kids about alcoholism. You might find it useful too?


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