Substance abuse is a prevalent problem in the United States and takes its toll in many ways. For example, the abuse of prescription opioids in 2013 may have led to a financial toll of $26 billion just in health care and $78.5 billion overall.
Of course, when someone such as your co-parent could have a substance abuse problem, you are unlikely to be thinking about these big-picture issues. Instead, you worry about the safety of your children and how they would react if their other parent were to get arrested, overdose or worse. Navigating this path can be difficult but is necessary for the sake of your children.
Assess the level of danger
In many cases, you may need to take immediate action to have the children with you full time if the co-parent is, say, habitually driving drunk or high with the children or leaving substances within easy reach. Consult a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you do everything safely and legally.
Take the high road
One of the most important things is to take the high road. That means continuing the practice of not talking badly about your co-parent in front of your children or in places where they might overhear. However, it does not mean that you must pretend to your children that everything is okay. You can say something like, “[Parent] is having some problems with pills, and that can make [Parent] seem angry sometimes, even at you. If you ever feel like you need to talk about it, I am here.”
If at all possible, you and your co-parent together should decide on how to present the issue to your children.
Think about solutions, and give credit where it is due
Could a rehab facility help your co-parent? What other methods is he or she trying to use in order to battle the substance abuse problem? Support these endeavors whenever you can instead of putting down the parent for having had a problem in the first place. It can be frustrating, yes, but it may be better for your children in the long run.