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New Tool for to Tackle Impact of Parental Addiction on Kids

New Tool for to Tackle Impact of Parental Addiction on Children

The impact of parental drinking on children came under the spotlight today at the launch of a children’s book about a young girl whose father has a drinking problem.

Ruby’s Dad, by Frances Rabone, is a New Zealand children’s book which was launched today in Wellington. The book is a joint project between the Health Promotion Agency (HPA) and Skylight - an NGO set up to support all ages through difficult change and loss.

The launch, which included a panel made up of people including a mother and daughter telling personal stories of how they were affected by their parents’ drinking. The launch highlighted the impact of parental heavy drinking and other addiction on children, and the difficulty children faced processing their experience even after their parent(s) went into addiction treatment.

“The book is a powerful new tool that can be used to shift clinical practice in adult addiction services, family services, and services working with children so that the impact of addiction on children is reduced,” said HPA Principal Advisor Addiction Sue Paton.

“Ruby’s story will go some way to giving a voice to children in a similar situation to Ruby and provide a useful way for clinicians, children and parents and caregivers to have a conversation about harmful alcohol use,” she said.

The book can be used as a therapeutic tool to kick start a conversation with parents in clinical settings; adult clients who are parents can be supported to read it to their child; it can be used as a tool for adult children who have a parent with problematic substance; and by a clinician with a child client as a therapeutic tool to have a conversation about their parent’s problematic substance use.

Bice Awan, CE of Skylight, explained why Skylight partnered with HPA to produce this book. “Too often children hurt by the impact of alcohol go unnoticed. Children need their parents or carers to notice how terrible it can be for them when they drink heavily. By providing support information for children, and their parents and carers, Skylight wants to help them better understand how alcoholism can affect a family’s life and to learn about some ways to cope – and to have honest conversations about it.

“Ruby’s Dad provides our community with a fantastic tool to build children’s resilience for the future if heavy drinking is a feature in their family or whānau,” she said.

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills who chaired the panel said the development of the resource was very timely and exciting. “Ruby’s Dad is the first resource of its kind here in New Zealand that focuses on the child’s experience of living with a parent with an addiction and will be a useful tool for clinicians. This book will help us make a difference to children like Ruby,” he said.

To assist with the use of Ruby’s Dad in a range of settings the HPA and Skylight have developed guidelines for adult, family and child clinicians and parents on how they can use it to help the child.

Copies of Ruby’s Dad can be ordered at or by phoning the Health Promotion Agency on 0508 258 258.

For further information or comment please contact Lynne Walsh, HPA Communications Manager on 021 369 081; Tricia Hendry, Skylight on 021 987 995; or Victoria Parsons 027 6965101 to contact the Children’s Commissioner.
Some quotes from the panellists

“My life at home with my parents started (and continued) with secrets and lies…lies told to me, then passed on by me, to my younger sister about the arguments and the booze…But what that inevitably leaves you with is a very confused sense of the truth, a growing sense of mistrust and this becomes isolating and frightening and very confusing.”

“When I was using alcohol and other drugs I told myself that my daughters were not being impacted. There was a part of me that always knew this wasn’t true – however the fear of not using ran so deep I couldn’t let myself see what was happening in my family.”

“I relate to Ruby’s story in many ways…as a little girl spending the first eight years of my life in a home with two using a pre-teen with my parents in early recovery and now as an adult recognizing the benefit of a book like this would have had if it had been available” said Amy. “I have used it in a group of family and friends of people in addiction treatment and it provoked a variety of positive responses”


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