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Special Challenges: Families Facing Drug and Alcohol Problems

It may be difficult for afterschool programs to know what to do or how to help when a student's family member is dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction. Children whose families are impacted by drug or alcohol addiction often feel confused about the situation and do not understand what is happening. Sometimes they feel it is their fault.

You may know of at least one student in your program who is in this situation or, if you don't, you probably want to be prepared to help if the issue arises. Here are some ways you can provide support to students affected by a family member's addiction. Learn more strategies and specific details from the National Association for Children of Alcoholics.

  • By being receptive and helpful to all of your students as a regular practice, you may be supporting a student who is in this situation that you don't even know about. Maintain a program where students feel comfortable trusting staff and building supportive relationships.
  • Convey some important messages to youth: that drug and alcohol dependency is a sickness and it is not their fault, that there is hope and help available, and that the children deserve to get help.
  • Empower youth by helping them build life skills such as coping strategies, resilience, independence and social skills.
  • Connect youth with professional resources for counseling.
  • Give youth tips about how to stay safe, such as walking or getting another ride rather than getting into a car with someone who has been drinking.

In addition to these strategies, one important thing to know is that a family history of alcoholism substantially increases the likelihood that an individual will struggle with alcohol problems. Drug and alcohol prevention efforts are necessary for all children and youth, but may be even more critical for those who have a family history of substance abuse due to environmental and genetic influences.

See the Understand Challenges to Family Engagement Coaching Moment for more ideas.

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Family Engagement