Stress caused by drug and alcohol addiction divides peaceful and loving homes. It brings out harmful behavioral changes in a person that destroys relationships, breaks the trust of loved ones, and leave one financially crippled.
What Impact of illicit substance abuse of parents on their children?
The most negative impact is on the children living with substance-abusing parents. When parents are addicted to drugs and alcohol, their children are more likely to suffer from substance use disorder (SUD) in adulthood. These children are three times more likely to be physically or sexually abused or neglected than children who grow up with healthy parents. It may also develop extreme guilt and self-blame feelings amongst the children because of their parent’s neglect.
Ways to care for children living with the addicted parents
Whether you are a caregiver in this situation or a child’s relative with a parent who is addicted, the best way to help is to encourage their parents to seek treatment. Depending on your relationship with the addicted person, you may also help him by:
• Planning and hosting an addiction intervention
• Helping to research treatment options
• Sharing a part of the treatment expenses
• Providing childcare and emotional support throughout the treatment
You can find reliable treatment centers for your loved ones, such as Delphi Health Group that offers various treatment options like detox, PHP, IOP, residential and outpatient.
In addition to treating the addicted parents, you can also discuss the addiction with the children to help them overcome the trauma. However, when talking to the children of addicted parents, you need to be careful about the following things:
I. How to talk to kids about addiction?
Talking to kids about their parent’s addiction requires lots of mindfulness. Denying its existence or ignoring the issues will cause more harm than intended. It does not protect the kids; rather, it will leave their minds forever with a crippling thought that life is always hopeless.
Talking openly with children about the addiction will help them cope with the shock they are experiencing. So one must educate themselves on what and how to speak before sharing information.
If you succeed, you will help them discard some of the lies they may believe, such as blaming themselves for their parent’s addiction, which can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, including codependency.
The biggest role here is to reassure the children that their parents love them, that they need help to recover from the disease, and that you are there to support and care for them.
II. When to talk to kids about?
When talking to the children about their parent’s addiction, you should start as soon as possible. Still, making sure to pick the right time and place for a conversation is essential. For example, speaking to them during the day is a better option when they are relaxed. Talking to them when they are upset, angry or tired will not be as impactful. However, since kids often believe that no one is aware of domestic issues, be prepared and patient if they deny the issue, especially if you are a non-family member.
III. Messages kids need to hear
It is common for children with addicted parents to develop self-esteem, attachment, autonomy, and trust issues. According to the National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACoA), the messages they need to hear include.
a. Addiction is a disease
b. It is out of their control
c. There is no issue talking about the addiction, and importantly
d. They need to hear that they are not alone.
Numerous substance addiction resources are accessible for these children, in addition to offering therapy to the parents and talking to the children. A few of the resources are:
1- Support groups: Most of these groups offer individualized programs to support the addicted.
2- D.A.R.E: Drug and Alcohol Resistance education is available in many schools for the affected children of addicted parents.
3- Call for help: If the children need help, they can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE.
4- Stay Informed: Learning about addiction and its effects will help children break the cycle by understanding what is happening in their homes.
Children living with parents who abuse substances need all the love and support they can get. You need to be patient with them, as their trauma may already have left them with severe emotional problems.
The first step in helping them is to teach them that neither they are responsible for their parents’ addictions nor can they control the situation at home. Second, you must convince the parents suffering from substance abuse disorder to seek treatment. The best way forward is to get them admitted to a reliable treatment facility as soon as possible and offer your assistance every step of the way.