"Get out, you drunk!" shrills one voice. "No! I live here. YOU get out," comes the response. The boy, crying and kneeling on his bed beside his teddy bear is praying, "Please stop!"
The little girl is walking away from her house, suitcase in hand, under cloudy skies. Above the clouds are the words: "As a result . . . the child runs away! Because parents are alcoholics! I would run away to!" "I hate my parents!" says the little girl.
"It's important," says Nancy Rubadeau-Howe, "to think small when you're dealing with a young child of alcoholic parents. It's so important to consider that child's view of the world. Their view of treatment will be very different from that of an adult."
The notion that "talking will help," while popular among adults, is a difficult concept for a young child to grasp. Consequently, counselor/therapists need to redefine "talk" when dealing with children in the treatment process.
"There are many kinds of talk," asserts Rubadeau-Howe, counseling supervisor at the Koala alcohol and drug abuse treatment center in Lebanon, Ind. "Play is talk. Slamming a door is talk. Fidgeting and running to the restroom four or five times in an hour is talk."
Even more important, she says, drawing is talk. "Art work," says the Children of Alcoholics Foundation, Manhattan, is one of the therapeutic techniques used to help children of alcoholics release hidden emotions. Art work can directly communicate the sadness, fear, hope and conflict experienced in an alcoholic family environment and can provide an excellent tool to inform others about the issues."
Therapists and counselors increasingly are using drawing to open two-way communication with young children of alcoholic families. Drawing, rather than verbalizing, explains Rubadeau-Howe, "provides the young child with a much less threatening way of expressing their feelings, and it provides the person that's trying to help them with some valuable information about what's going on."
Dad is passed out, head on the table beside an empty whiskey bottle, cigarette butts spilling out of the ashtray and overturned glass spilling liquor onto the table. The little boy stands silently in his pajamas, beside his father, one giant tear falling from his left eye.
The drawings can help the child convey to the counselor issues the child may need to deal with but which might never come out if the therapist waited for the child to talk about them. Also, adds Rubadeau-Howe, the drawings often are used as confrontational material with the parents.
"I've seen a denial system that had remained intact for years simply shattered when a child's picture about her dad's drinking, about what it's like for her when her dad's drinking, is shown to him."
Some things to look for in drawings of the family situation: who the child is closest to, farthest away from, facial expressions, roles played by different members, who is left out, in authority, or isolated from the others.
The real issues, says Rubadeau-Howe, often become clear in a simple picture. "The drawings allow the child to communicate and still maintain a safe silence. They can exercise their control and express their feelings.
"As children gain the ability to communicate their wants, their needs, their pain, with another person without having to give up their silence, all this helps us to help them."
"Home Sweet Home!" says a sampler on the wall. The room is neat, with a fire laid in the fireplace and flowers all around the room. There are no people, but it clearly is a well-ordered, nice house. Says the legend on the child's drawing: "Recovering is great, just look at this home. It is just great, can't you see! When you drink you can't think, so don't!"
"The Images Within: A Child's View of Parental Alcoholism," a national art exhibition initiated by the Children of Alcoholics Foundation, will end a six-state tour with a showing in the Washington area in spring, 1987.
For more information about young children of alcoholics and intervention/prevention programs:
* Al-Anon Alateen Information Service Center, c/o St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Rock Creek Church Road and Webster St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20011, (202) 882-1334.
* Children Are People Inc., 493 Selby Ave., St. Paul, Minn. 55102, (612) 227-4031.
* Children of Alcoholics Foundation, Inc., 540 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10022, (212) 980-5394.
Fairfax Hospital, Comprehensive Addiction Treatment Services (CATS), 3300 Gallows Rd., Falls Church, Va. 22046, (703) 698-1530.
* Kids Are Special, 19500 Calle de Barcelona, Cupertino, Calif. 95014, (408) 725-1517.
* National Association for Children of Alcoholics, 31706 Coast Highway, Suite 201, South Laguna, Calif. 92677, (714) 499-3889.
* Sis Wenger & Associates, The Alcohol/Drug Education People, 3355 Bradway Blvd., Birmingham, Mich. 48010, (313) 646-7018.