Resource Summary

This learning pathway is for all practitioners working with adults, whether as a generalist practitioner or as an AOD specialist.

While rates of smoking and alcohol consumption are declining, substance use still plays a big role in Australian culture. Studies show that around 36% of Australians either drank alcohol at harmful levels or smoked daily in a 12-month period, and the number of people using illicit drugs has increased in recent years.1 Many of these people will be parents, who may present to your service for co-existing issues such as mental health concerns, financial or housing difficulties, or family and domestic violence.

When you are working to support a parent with substance use issues, it can be easy to overlook the impact of their alcohol/drug use on their child. But understanding this impact and working with parents to reduce it is key to supporting children’s long-term mental health and wellbeing.

The AOD learning pathway explores the potential impacts of parental substance use on children’s relationships, physical and mental health, and wellbeing. It provides a guide for talking with parents about their substance use and how it may be affecting their child, and strategies to help empower parents by identifying their strengths and the hopes they have for their family.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that the resources in this learning pathway may contain imagery, audio or names of people who have passed away.

Explore our online alcohol and other drugs courses

The impact of parental substance use on the child

This course is the first in the AOD learning pathway. The accompanying practice course, Parental substance use and child-aware practice, can be completed next.

This course provides you with an introduction to the impact of parental alcohol and other drugs (AOD) use, or substance use, on children.

It provides a definition of substance use, and aims to improve understanding of the effects of parental substance use on children, highlighting the potential impacts on the child’s relationships, physical health, and social and emotional wellbeing.

A significant proportion of parents who present to adult services will also have substance use issues. This foundational course will help you to incorporate child-aware practice in adult services when working with parents affected by substance use.

Whether you’re a professional in the AOD sector, or a generalist practitioner in adult-focused services, these understandings will be beneficial to your work with adults and children.

Parental substance use and child-aware practice

This course is the second in the AOD learning pathway. The course, The Impact of Parental Substance Use on the Child, should be completed first.

This course examines preventative opportunities and entry points to promote children’s mental health with parents in the context of parental substance use. It provides examples of conversations with parent-clients who are using substances in ways that affect the social and emotional wellbeing of their children.

The course will provide you with a conversation guide, which is easily incorporated into your current practice, to assist your work with parents who are affected by substance use. This guide recognises the challenges for practitioners in working with presentations of substance use. It also recognises the importance of making children’s safety and social and emotional wellbeing visible in all services.

View all Alcohol and other drugs learning pathway courses on Emerging Minds Learning.


1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Drug Statistics series no. 32. PHE 270. Canberra: AIHW.

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