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20 Books to Explain Addiction to Children

explain addiction, Explaining Alcoholism, mom reading to young daughter

When a Child grows up in a home where a parent or other loved one has a substance use disorder, they often feel confused and frightened. Their home life may be chaotic and unpredictable. They may hear arguing, crying, or yelling and have no understanding of why it is happening. Some children draw the conclusion that they are the cause of the problems. Others become withdrawn, act out, or become aggressive. 


Children’s books about addiction can help parents explain substance use disorders in an age-appropriate way. 

Explain Addiction To: Preschool to Second Grade – Ages 4-8 

Explaining addiction to preschool to second-grade children requires books that use simple language, relatable stories, and age-appropriate illustrations. Here are some excellent books for this age group: 

1. Up and Down the Mountain: Helping Children Cope With Parental Alcoholism
Many times, children living with a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol blame themselves for the problems that exist in their home. They feel that somehow they are the cause of all of the misery and unhappiness. Author Pamela Leib Higgins shows that the problems in the household are not their fault and provides hope for a positive outcome. 

2. I Wish Daddy Didn’t Drink So Much
In her book, Judith Vigna tells the story of a young girl who learns, with the help of her mother and an older friend, to cope with her father’s drinking. The book shares the girl’s disappointments, frustrations, and feelings while emphasizing that the problem is not the girl’s fault. 

3. Think of the Wind
Written from the perspective of a young boy, Catherine Mercury compares living with a parent with a substance addiction to the wind. The child doesn’t know how to explain the wind, but he knows it’s there, and the same holds true about the parent. The book helps children understand that they are not alone in a way that is not judgmental. 

4. “My Dad Loves Me, My Dad Has a Disease” A Child’s View of Living With Addiction
Claudia Black wrote this book from the standpoint that addiction is a disease and that although a person suffering from addiction may do bad things, the person is not bad. This book helps the child work through their feelings of frustration, loneliness, and fear. 

5. A Terrible Thing Happened: A Story for Children That Have Witnessed Violence or Trauma
When a child suffers from a traumatic event, whether it is from addiction in the home or another cause, they are often unable or unwilling to talk about it. Author Margaret M. Holmes tells the story of Sherman Smith, who saw a terrible thing happen. Throughout the book the actual event is never disclosed, leaving it open for the reader to relate Sherman’s experience to their own personal traumatic event. 

6. When a Family is in Trouble: Children Can Cope With Grief From Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Written in a simple style that a young child can understand, Marge Heegaard provides answers to the basic questions a child has about substance addiction. Healthy coping skills are encouraged. 

7. Mommy’s Disease: Helping Children Understand Alcoholism
Carolyn Hannan Bell tells the story of a little girl who thought she was responsible for her mother’s strange actions. Her father explains that her mother has a disease called alcoholism. He helps her understand the addiction and fosters a feeling of peace, so she can have a healthy childhood. 

8. Wishes and Worries: Coping with a Parent Who Drinks Too Much Alcohol
Written by professionals at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, this book tells the story of a father who drinks too much and how much his family wishes he would stop. It explores all the feelings and emotions the family experiences. It is an excellent resource to begin a conversation on the topic between an adult and a child. 

9. Daddy Doesn’t Have To Be a Giant Anymore
Narrated by a little girl, Jane Resh Thomas tells the story of a father that was happy and light-hearted when he wasn’t drinking and turns into a very scary different person after drinking whiskey while hiding in the garage. The little girl explains how they helped her father get treatment after a family intervention. 

Explain Addiction To: Grades 3 to 7 – Ages 8-13 

Explaining addiction to third to seventh-grade children requires books that strike a balance between providing age-appropriate information and addressing their curiosity about the topic. Here are some suitable books for this age group: 

10. Emmy’s Question
Written by Jeannine Auth, this book tells the story of a young girl who just wants to live a normal life. Instead, she lives with her alcoholic mother and tries to hide her mother’s drinking from everyone. Emmy uses her diary to tell of her loneliness and disclose her hurt and true feelings. 

11. An Elephant In the Living Room The Children’s Book
This book by Jill M. Hastings and Marion H. Typpo helps children understand the problem of drug or alcohol addiction. It helps them learn how to cope with their feelings and problems that arise when a parent or sibling has a substance use disorder. 

12. Fresh Fables: The Dragon Who Lives at Our House – A Story Of What It Feels Like to Lose Control Of our Life
Elaine Mitchell Palmore tells the story of Al the Dragon. Al was very welcome at all family functions, but soon Dad became too fond of Al and became consumed by him. Dad went for treatment and Al the Dragon became smaller and the family had hope again. This child-friendly book easily explains the devastation that can be caused by drug or alcohol addiction. 

13. Waiting for Normal
Leslie Connor tells the story of a 12-year-old girl who struggles with living with her neglectful mother and her problems. It is a story of resilience and perseverance as the child finds hope in the people around her. 

14. Different Like Me: A Book for Teens Who Worry About Their Parent’s Use of Alcohol/Drugs
In this book, Evelyn Lelite and Pamela Espeland explain drug and alcohol addiction and what happens to people who become addicted. It includes advice for children of alcohol or drug dependent parents regarding how to handle certain situations when they arise. The book also clears up misconceptions about drugs and drug use. 

15. Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool
Jodie Lamb tells the story of a 7th-grade girl who is finally becoming a “cool” kid. But at the same time, her mother’s drinking is out of control and the girl does everything she can to hide her mother’s drinking from the residents of their small town. This book explains how quickly things can spiral out of control, while showing that it is alright to tell someone and get help. 

16. I Can Talk About What Hurts: A Book for Kids in Homes Where There’s Chemical Dependency
Written by Janet Sinberg and Dennis Daley, this book explores the interactions, feelings, and emotions of children and teenagers living in a home where a parent or other family member has a substance abuse addiction. They learn it is okay to seek help and talk about their feelings, fears, and worries. 

17. Understanding Addiction and Recovery Through a Child’s Eyes: Hope, Help, and Healing for Families
Put together by Jerry Moe, this book is a collection of anecdotes and stories of teens and children living with a loved one’s addiction. He shows how using various techniques and tools can help with the healing process. These are simple coping skills Mr. Moe has used during his career as an addiction professional. 

18. Tall Tales
Karen Day tells the story of Meg, a young girl whose family has been forced to move many times because of her father’s alcoholism. Meg finally finds a real friend, but finds herself lying to her to cover up her father’s addiction. The book relays the power of telling the truth, which leads to getting help for her father and the rest of the family. 

Explain Addiction To: Teenagers – (ages 14-19) 

Explaining addiction to teenagers requires books that are informative, engaging, and respectful of their maturity level. Here are some highly regarded books for teenagers (ages 14-19) that address addiction: 

19. For Teenagers Living With a Parent Who Abuses Alcohol/Drugs
This is a non-fiction book by Edith Lynn Hornik-Beer that answers the many questions asked by teenagers about drug and alcohol addiction. Originally published in 1974, parts of the book may seem somewhat outdated. However, it does give straightforward answers to the timeless questions about addiction. 

20. Alateen: Hope for Children of Alcoholics
This book from Al-Anon Family Groups Headquarters contains many personal and powerful stories from teens. They tell of their feelings and experiences of having a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol. The book also serves as a great introduction to the help offered by Alateen and Al-Anon meetings. 


Addiction affects everyone in the home. If you or a loved one are suffering from a substance abuse addiction, there is help available. By calling Canyon Vista Recovery Center in Mesa, Arizona, you will find answers to your questions and learn the next steps to begin the journey to recovery. 

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