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For Kids and Families

Breaking into Sunlight was inspired in part by my own family experiences. I have watched people I love struggling with addiction, and I wanted so badly to make them better, but did not know how.

Many, many other people have been there, facing a loved one’s addiction, or are there right now, feeling powerless and scared. That includes millions of kids. The most recent national report on substance use and addiction estimated that 8.7 million young people under eighteen – one in eight – lived with at least one parent who had a drug or alcohol problem. That means that in any given classroom in a school, chances are good that not just one, but two or even three kids are dealing with this issue.

So if you are one of these kids, remember that you are not alone. Far from it. And know that you don’t have to hide your worry and pain or feel ashamed. People around you – your friends, other family, your teachers, counselors, or other trusted grownups – can listen, help you sort through what you’re dealing with, and find a positive way forward. This problem is so widespread that when you begin to talk about it, you might very well find that the person you are confiding in has been there, too.

If you would like to connect with other people who have gone through this experience, or find resources and guidance, there are groups out there that can help. Among them:

  • Eluna has resources and information for kids, parents, teachers and others. Eluna also runs a year-round program called Camp Mariposa for kids ages nine to twelve who have been affected by a family member’s substance use.
  • The National Association for Children of Addiction has resources and information for teens, younger kids, and families, as well as ways to get involved in heling improve the lives of others facing this problem.
  • Boys Town has a crisis hotline to connect you to counselors who can help. You can text VOICE to 20121 to connect to someone who speaks English or Spanish. Translation services are available for more than one hundred other languages. Those with speech or hearing impairments can email
  • Childhelp has a 24/7 national hotline to contact if you or a young person you know is being harmed or neglected physically or emotionally. You can live chat through the website, or you can call or text 800-422-4453.
  • Crisis Text Line can connect you with trained volunteer crisis counselors when you’re feeling scared, depressed or anxious and need to talk with someone. Text HOME to 741741. You can text or chat through the website or connect via WhatsApp.

The Seven Cs

People who help kids cope with drug use and addiction in their families often talk about something called the Seven Cs, developed by counselor and author Jerry Moe. It’s a brief credo that has helped me, and I kept it in mind as I was writing Breaking into Sunlight. Here it is:

I didn’t cause it.

I can’t control it.

I can’t cure it.


I can take care of myself

By communicating my feelings,

Making healthy choices,

And celebrating myself.

The first half of this credo is about accepting the hard things you are facing and recognizing what is beyond your control. The second half is about focusing on what you can do: You can connect with other people, opening your heart to friends and trusted grownups about your feelings and needs, and accepting their help and support. You can make positive, healthy choices for yourself. And you can celebrate the good in life, your blessings and milestones, big and small, and do things that make you happy and lift your spirits.

The Seven Cs can also extend beyond addiction to help people touched by grief, mental health issues, and other difficult things in life.