The Washington Post

A grandmother with a drinking problem: Advice from Family Almanac’s Marguerite Kelly

(Hadley Hooper/for The Washington Post)

“At some point, possibly soon, we will have to explain her condition to our kids because we won’t be able to hide it. I don’t want to push her away, however. She would surely be offended if she knew that we had told them about it, even if we didn’t call it a disease,” says the letter writer.

“I also want to talk to them about alcohol when they reach an appropriate age so they will be aware of its effects and of the role it has played in their family history.”

Kelly advises the parent to consider how the grandmother behaves in different environments, and then plan family gatherings accordingly.

She suggests the parent think about these questions before planning the next get together: “Which venue brings out the best in her? The worst? What sets her off?

When does she take her first drink of the day? Her last?

Can the four of you meet her for lunch at a food court or some other place where alcohol isn’t served, such as story hour at the library?”

Finding the right atmosphere to include this grandparent is key, because “Alcoholics don’t want to be embarrassed by their behavior any more than you want to be around it,” says Kelly.

She also encourages this parent to speak with the kids, ages 3 and 5, about their grandmother’s addiction if it becomes too apparent.

“Tell them that nobody ever wants to be an alcoholic; that alcoholism flowers in some people but not in others; and that Grandma just drew the wrong straw. And then add this reassuring fact: It won’t happen to them, because you’re going to teach them how to avoid the problem, no matter what straw they draw.”

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