How can I cope with my parent/caregiver’s substance use?

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Kids Help Phone is here for you during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency services and child protection services are still available across Canada and mobile crisis support is also available in some areas. No matter what, your safety is a priority — it’s important to find ways to protect yourself, even while practising physical distancing.

Living with a parent/caregiver’s substance use can be hard. And it can be even harder when it involves more than one parent/caregiver. It’s normal to feel stressed, sad, angry or any other emotion if their substance use is affecting you. Remember, you didn’t cause their behaviour and you can’t control their actions. However, there are things you can do to cope and get support with your well-being.

If a parent/caregiver’s use of substances is impacting your life, there are things you can do to get help. Here are some ways you can cope with the situation and take care of yourself:

  • create a safety plan to help you protect yourself and know what to do if things are becoming unsafe
  • tell a safe adult about what’s going on and ask for support
  • consider spending some time away to take a break, if possible (e.g. by spending time in nature, playing games in your room, connecting with friends, etc.)
  • research support services for friends, relatives, etc. of people struggling with substance use (you can start by searching Resources Around Me for local programs)
  • check out information from trusted sources to help you understand substance use, if you have questions
  • take time to practise self-care and do things you enjoy each day
  • talk about your feelings with someone you trust (e.g. a friend, counsellor, etc.)
  • remember your parent/caregiver’s substance use is not your fault

If you or your parent/caregiver are in immediate danger (e.g. if you’re experiencing abuse, if you suspect an overdose, etc.), contact 911 or the emergency services in your area right away. You can also reach out to child protection services for help.

If your parent/caregiver’s substance use is impacting your life, it’s important for you to get support. You can connect with a safe adult for help with the situation.