The Big Idea: When a parent returns from treatment, children face a new set of worries in addition to their ongoing worries—but there are ways to help them work through their fears and anxieties.
Play, Talk, Imagine!
Launch Play, Talk, Imagine!
1. Before you share the story with children, explain:
- Addiction is a sickness in the brain, a disease (but not the kind you catch like a cold). It makes people believe that they need drugs or alcohol to feel okay. Like any sickness, people with drug or alcohol addiction need treatment to get better.
- When parents have problems with addiction, it’s never the children’s fault…even if they’ve been made to feel that way.
- Lots of children have parents with the same problem—and there are lots of people who can help; no one has to feel alone.
- It’s important to talk to grown-ups you can trust, and there are lots of people who care about you.
2. Together, read this story about Karli’s struggle with her mom returning home after being away for treatment.
3. Afterward, ask children:
- Why did Milo get frustrated with Karli and want to stop playing?
- How do you think Karli’s mom acted differently when she was using drugs or alcohol? (she may have gotten angry more, slept at strange times, forgotten important things, and so on)
- Why did Karli have to make so many sandwiches at home? How do you think she was feeling?
- Why is pretending to make sandwiches now so important to Karli?
- Karli’s mom was about to come home from treatment. What was Karli worried about?
- What did Mama Elephant say to Baby Elephant about why Baby Elephant could trust her again? (She’d found grown-up help and gotten better, and she’d keep asking for help to stay better.)
4. On your own, reflect upon how Ms. Moe handled the situation. She:
- acknowledged and empathized with Karli’s feelings and let her know they were all okay.
- created a play scenario with the elephants that let Karli talk through her fears.
- acted out the role of a loving mother while still being realistic about the possibility of relapse.
- reminded Karli that she could begin to trust her mom again.
- reminded her how much her mom loved her.
- assured Karli that there are grown-ups who will help her mom continue to get better and that Karli can have fun playing with her friends.
Special thanks to Lucy McLellan, Play Therapist, RDT-BCT, LCAT, LPC