Scripts for Kids: How to Answer Questions About Substance Use Death

Author Jennifer Wiles, MA, LMHC, BC-DMT

Here are some possible situations that you may encounter after experiencing a substance use death in your family.  Maybe you can practice these with an adult to see if you can come up with your own responses to these questions. 

Situation One: 

You are going back to school for the first time after the death of your brother. At recess, a classmate comes up to you and asks, “I heard your brother died. My sister told me it was from drugs. Is that true?”

First, you don’t have to answer any question! Just because people ask does not mean that you need to provide an answer. Answer the question in a way that feels most comfortable to you.

Second, choose an adult at school that you trust, such as a teacher or school counselor and ask them to speak for you and be your “spokesperson”. Let that person know the information that you would like them to share if people ask. 

Here are some possible answers to the question:

  • “If you want to know more, you can ask...(Your Spokesperson).”
  • “Yes, that’s true.”
  •  “I don’t know.”

Situation Two: 

There are 3 kids in your family, you and your 2 sisters. Your oldest sister has died from substance use.  When you meet someone for the first time, they might ask you, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” Answer in the way that feels most comfortable to you.  There is no one right or wrong way to answer this question. 

 Here are some possible answers to the question:

  • “I have 2 sisters. How about you?"
  • “I have 2 sisters.  One of my sisters died last year.”
  • “I have 2 sisters, one living and one deceased.”

Situation Three: 

Your dad has just died from substance use.  You used to live with him until he couldn’t take care of you anymore.  You have moved to live with your grandparents.  On your first day at the new school, kids ask you, “Where is your mom and dad?  Why do you live with your grandma and grandpa?”

 Again, you can answer in the way that feels most comfortable to you.  Here are some choices:

  • “There have been lots of changes in my family.  I moved here to be closer to my family. Who is in your family?”
  • “My dad died, so I live with my grandparents now"
  • “My grandma and grandpa wanted me to live with them, so I moved in with them.” 

If people that you meet have more questions about the disease of addiction or substance use disorder, tell them to talk to an adult like your teacher or school counselor. For more information on how to support a child facing a death from substance use disorder: Talking with Kids about Substance Use Death  and Here is a video that explains how addiction can highjack the brain



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