(Alateen) Children of Alcoholics … Soft Is The Heart of a Child

The following is the first in my series of resources and information on various topics for School Counsellors from A-Z.

1. What is Alateen?

Alateen is a group for children of alcoholics. Approximately 6.6 million children under the age of 18 in Canada live in a home with at least one alcoholic parent. So when discussing this with students you can assure them they are not alone, although to them it may feel like it. Children of alcoholics often hear the messages don’t talk, trust or feel. School Counsellors can help these young people change those messages. Here are two great videos about how Alateen can help.

One teens story:

I was so scared at home. I never knew if my dad would be drinking when I got home from school. Actually I never knew what to expect. Mom was always threatening to leave dad and all four of us (my brother and sisters) would often line up at the door to leave, but we never did. None of my teachers ever knew that there was alcoholism in my home. They often told me how lucky I was that I must have had great parents. I guess that was because I behaved so well in school, trying to be the perfect child so no one would find out my secret.

I was embarrassed and ashamed that my dad drank too much. I was also angry a lot (meaning almost every day) . I was angry with both my mom and my dad. Sometimes I was angrier with my non alcoholic mom because I did not understand why we stayed and put up with the drinking. I saw her reaction to his drinking and that had an impact on me.

Often times I would also throw my dad’s alcohol down the sink or hide it around the house so he could not find it. Little did I realize that doing that was just making me sick emotionally. I often felt irritable and unreasonable, but I never knew why. I was in denial about alcoholism being in my family.

Here is a journal entry I wrote in the first few weeks I decided reluctantly to go to Alateen, because I thought it was their problem, not my problem.

“ I wish I could work out my problems. I hope Alateen will help. Mom really doesn’t care about anyone but herself (at least that what she’s pretending to do). I think she needs me as much as I need her, but how do we solve this problem? I depend on mom and dad. I am not mature. I get mad at every little thing without wanting to. I hope Alateen will help with this too. I would try to help myself if I knew how. I remember thinking about killing myself, but I would never go through with it because I was too scared and I did not want to really.”

I’m so grateful I did not go through with harming myself because Alateen did work. Actually my whole family got help. I learned everything I could about how alcoholism affects families and things slowly, but surely got better and better. I recognize that alcoholism affects everyone in the family each to a different degree. Today, I look for the good in everyone and everything. I recognize that I don’t know where I would be today if it were not for Alateen. If you are a teen living with a parent who drinks too much Alateen can help. Reach out!!

There are young people we see in our offices with similar stories. Children of alcoholics often keep their parents drinking a secret, but teachers and School Counsellors can often spot that something is wrong and reach out to these students. Sometimes students show up in our offices sad and scared because mom or dad had been drinking on the weekend and they are feeling helpless and hopeless. Recommending Alateen can help. As School Counsellors we can identify these children using CAST Children of Alcoholics Screening Test.

CAST Children of Alcoholics Screening Test

You as a School Counsellor should not underestimate your ability to have a life long impact on children who are living with a loved one with an addiction. You may be the first person in this child’s life that they have felt safe enough to share what is happening . You may be the one to give them permission to share openly what they have been feeling and going through. This can be life changing.

Things children of alcoholics need to know:

  • They are not alone
  • Their parents drinking is NOT their fault. They did not cause it ,they cannot control it and they cannot cure it.
  • Alcoholism is an illness. You do not need to feel ashamed.
  • Alcoholics can and do recover.
  • There is hope and help for alcoholics and their family.
  • They can live a happy and productive life whether their parent is drinking or not.
  • They can be resilient.
  • They need to understand alcoholism. If their parent had diabetes they most likely would learn all they could about the disease.  They can learn and understand about alcoholism as well.
  • The only person they can change is themselves.
  • It is not a dishonour to their mom and dad to talk and tell the truth.
  • Reaching out takes courage and strength.
  • You as the School Counsellor are there for them.

Sentence Completions for Children of Alcoholics:

  1. As a child of an alcoholic I …
  2. I feel …
  3. I wish …
  4. I want my mom …
  5. I want my dad  …
  6. I wish …
  7. I plan to …
  8. I want to change …
  9. I need to learn to …
  10. It would help me if I …

RESOURCES:

Soft is the heart of a child . As a School Counsellor you can make a difference in the life of a child dealing with addictions . I am sure many of you already do. Please keep up the life saving work.

Please stay tuned for my next Counsellor Talk on Bullying.

Counsellor Thoughts

Thoughts From Your School Counsellors

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As school counsellors, there are some very important things we wish to share with you.

You are the reason we do what we do

We care; we mean really care about teenagers. We do our best to touch as many students as we can, being advocates for you in school. We feel you have a right to know why we do what we do. We are counsellors by choice. Some of the things we have to do are difficult, but we choose to be here.

We are here because we believe we can help

As your School Counsellors, we have several roles. Even if we get caught up doing several things at once, our hearts are always with you, the student.

What you do with your life is up to you

You are in charge of you. We are here to help you reach your full potential. We will insist that you learn. It is your ticket to absolute freedom.

Be all that you can be

It isn’t easy being a teenager; even we can get frustrated with your raging hormones. You are growing and changing. We understand that. Take responsibility for your life and your actions and your teachers and others will respect you.

We do care, don’t ever forget it

That’s why we are here

That’s why we choose to do what we do

We will help in any way we can. We may get you support with a mentor, another counsellor or whomever can help us help you.

Stop … Think … Speak

Remember, your thoughts lead to feelings lead to your actions. Change your thinking and you will have control of your life.

No matter what anyone else says or does to you, you are a worthwhile person

Truly  you are a gift

You are somebody

You deserve dignity and respect

 

There will be times during your school experience where negative things are said or done to you. You may experience painful times. Life can be difficult. It’s not what happens in your life that matters, but how you choose to respond to it and we are here to help.

What you put into school is what you will get out of it

With your help, we can make a difference. If you choose to share a part of yourself with us, we can work together to make changes in your life. Your school experience will become everything you hoped it could be. Get involved and you will feel better about yourself.

Give life a chance

One of the easiest things to say and one of the most difficult things to do are to live one day at a time. If you can master letting go of the past, not worrying about the future, but living each day to the fullest, then you will have lived a great life full of few regrets.

Be patient

Change takes time. Let yourself grow. We all can change if we have the courage and the wisdom.

We have faith in you

Never give up! Have Hope! Live every moment to the fullest! Become all that you are meant to be and you pay it forward to others.

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Coping Skills for Adolescents

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Picture by Julia C

Coping Skills

  1. REACH OUT it is important to reach out to friends , family, and people you trust.
  2. REALIZE SMALL STEPS MATTER when you are trying to cope it all depends on what you have to cope with every small step you make towards being able to cope matters.
  3. REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS if you are trying to cope with something serious the process to feel better could take a long time and you may require supports. Set realistic expectations of yourself.
  4. REMEMBER TO BREATHE breathing helps. You can learn breathing techniques that can assist you in life. Ask your School Counsellor to help you.
  5. REMEMBER TO NOURISH YOURSELF drink your water and eat things that make your brain work better.
  6. REVIEW YOUR SELF TALK what you say to yourself matters. Learn new ways of talking to yourself that are helpful and positive.
  7. RECREATION CAN HELP you may like to do Art , exercise or any other recreational activity like music that can heal and help you.
  8. REMIND yourself that there is hope and help. You can …
  9. REFLECT on what has worked in the past and what could work in the present and future.
  10. REACH OUT FURTHER you may need to see a School Counsellor or therapist. It is OK to seek help. For more serious concerns you may need a Psychiatrist or other helping professionals to work with you on a team. YOU MATTER,  so you need to know reaching out for as many supports as you need is a sign of strength.

A: Attitude: Your attitude matters

B: Books : Read a book on the topic you are trying to cope with can help.

Beliefs Challenge your thoughts about the topic: Be positive! Books can be healing!

C: Caring and compassion make a difference:  Helping others helps you to focus on others not on your problems. Random Acts of Kindness lead to greater happiness for you and others.

D: Decide that you need to take care of yourself.

E: Exercise is always helpful. You are able exercise 10-15  mins. each day. You can do it!

F: Find great strategies that work for you. Ask your friends what works for them.

G: Give yourself a break. Say to yourself I am more than … my grades, my size, etc.

H: Hope . It is so important to maintain a hopeful perspective . Help others ! When you help others less fortunate you help yourself.

I : Invite others to help you : Kids Help Phone.

J: Just be yourself.

K: Kindness is always a good thing.be kind to yourself. Do a Random Acts of Kindness for someone else today.

L: Listen to music . It soothes the soul.

M: Mindfulness matters. Focus on your breath.  Here are some tips for teens.

N: Naming game: 54321 Exercise.

O: Open your mind to new strategies. Try a positive method of coping that you haven’t tried before. maybe try painting and get in the flow. It can make a difference.

P: Positive self talk matters.

Q: Quite your mind. Be still!

R: Relax:

S: Strategies: the more you have the better.  Here are 99.

T: Trust: that your feelings will not last forever. Feelings are neither right nor wrong they are just feelings. It is what you do with them that matters.

U: Understanding your coping skills matters.

V: Visualize what you want.

W: Watch a funny show to get your mind off all the serious stuff.

X:  A to Z  list.

Y: YOU MATTER . Remember who matters.

Z: Get some zzz’s

You can learn to cope. Connecting with the right people can help you cope in an effective manner. Hopefully the above list will give you new ways of coping and if you have a great way of coping please share your ideas!