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Alcoholic uncle... what to tell my 4 year-old?

My husband's brother is an alcoholic who lives with their mother (he's pushing 50). MIL is a snowbird and is gone for a couple months. Almost immediately, BIL started drinking again after more than a year of sobriety. He isn't violent when he's drunk- just more of an obnoxious jerk than he is when he's sober. My husband and I don't want anything to do with him anymore - this has gone on far too long. The problem is my 4-year-old wants to see his uncle. I've only told him that Uncle is sick, and that satisfied him for a couple weeks. I don't know how to handle it now. He's too young to understand the disease, and we don't want him exposed to it. If you've dealt with this issue in your family and have any guidance to share, it's appreciated. Thanks.

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Asked by Anonymous at 4:11 PM on Jan. 22, 2010 in General Parenting

Answers (2)
  • I haven't dealt with it personally, but I would tell him that his uncle is sick in a way that it's very hard to get better from, and until he sees a doctor or a counselor, it's not ok to be around him. Kids can understand hurt feelings, and I think it's ok to tell your son that his uncle has problems with his emotions so he drinks too much and can't control himself and it's not good for kids to be with him when he's like that.
    I don't see anything wrong with being very truthful with him. Kids are smart and he will figure things out eventually anyway and then just be mad at you for keeping a secret from him.

    Answer by Anonymous at 5:11 PM on Jan. 22, 2010

  • Part of the reason we don't talk to my mother, stepfather (before he died), and stepsiblings on that side anymore is because I didn't want my son around their alcoholic life anymore. He was a bit older when we totally stopped seeing them, he was 9 AND there was a HUGE thing that happened, but he understood much younger that the drinking there was out of hand and realized young and would ask why they all drank so much beer. I think by 4 he realized his biofather drank too much and I just tried to answer questions to his age, give as little information as possible then a little more until he is satisfied. As a pp said tell him that Uncle ... is sick and it is not good for him to be around him right now.

    Answer by Anonymous at 5:52 PM on Jan. 22, 2010

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