If you have children and struggle with substance abuse and addiction, it’s time to start your journey to recovery and sober living.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at how addiction affects children before recovery.
How Addiction Affects Children Before Recovery
1 in 8 children lives in a household where at least one parent has a substance abuse disorder. According to the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), that equates to over 8.7 million children.
Because we know a person’s addiction often becomes a top priority, children are not the top priority. The parent with an addiction often neglects children.
Each stage of a child’s life requires parental guidance: learning to trust people, cope with negative emotions, accountability, and be rewarded, praised, and loved.
Parents are role models, even if they are addicts, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Here’s how addiction affects children and how joining a sober living house can help.
Who Are Children of Addicted Parents?
When discussing a big group like this, it’s essential to define the factors that place a child into this category. According to the American Academy of Expert Training, any child whose parent or caregiver uses alcohol, drugs, or any other substance in a way that causes problems for the child.
Even if the child is not living with the addicted parent (separation, divorce, death), if the child is struggling and continues to feel the impact of their parent’s addiction, they fall into this category.
In a review of studies, it was found children of addicted parents are affected negatively. They often have weaker academic skills, emotional and behavioral problems, and trouble forming good social skills. Sadly, many children of addicts follow their parents into the world of substance abuse. Only, their journey typically begins earlier and can be accelerated from recreational use to full-blown addiction.
Keep reading to discover details on how having an addicted parent can affect a child. You can also learn what you can do to help.
Poor Academic Skills
Academic skills do not only refer to the grade on a report card. Many factors lead to the grade at the end of the quarter or semester.
For example, a child may appear tired in class, possibly nodding off during lessons. A teacher may become angry and punish the child, thinking they had been wasting time playing video games or texting friends. However, the truth could be that they waited up all night for their parent to return home after getting drunk at the local bar.
Or, they may have been up all night because their parents were involved in domestic abuse behaviors.
Home behaviors like this can affect a child’s ability to focus on anything but the problems they experience daily. Too often, children of addicted parents must take on parental roles at home, like cooking and cleaning, both of which must come before homework.
Psychological and Behavioral Problems
Addicts lie, not because they are bad people, but simply because the drugs and alcohol they abuse are in control of their behaviors. After being disappointed by an addict on multiple occasions, a child will begin to mistrust them.
Scenarios like this lead a child of an addict to become confused and unable to handle emotions appropriately. They may act up because they have not been taught how to cope. Eventually, they may copy their parents’ behaviors and start using drugs or alcohol to cope.
Other emotional and behavioral problems a child of an addict can experience include low self-esteem, which can influence them to make poor decisions. They may even think the tough life they have been prescribed is their fault, or like they deserve it.
Anxiety, depression, identity confusion, shame, guilt, and other emotional problems can lead to behavior choices that lead to loss of friends, academic failures, legal troubles, and many times, addiction.
Some even find their way into abusive relationships, often continuing the cycle of their addicted parent. Further, codependency and role reversals within this family dynamic can lead to highly dysfunctional relationships.
Growing up with an addicted parent can cause trauma in a developing brain. In young children, living with an addict causes a high degree of stress.
Stressors include neglect and not feeling loved, worry that their parent may die, finding their addicted parent overdosed, yelling and screaming, mood swings of the parent, and even a lack of food or other necessities because the income was spent on drugs or alcohol.
Any of these can impact the development of a child. And if a child of an addict later becomes a substance abuser, the substances they use further traumatize their mental and physical development.
Even if the addicted parent gets sober, their child may experience post-traumatic stress, which leads to nightmares, flashbacks, panic, general anxiety, and a serious need for mental health treatment.
Treatment Options for Children With An Addicted Parent
The sooner a child starts treatment, the better. That statement may seem obvious, but there are millions of children, even adult children, of addicts who will tell you they did not get help soon enough. Don’t fall into this category.
If you don’t know where to start for help, ask for help from a teacher or friend you trust. Another way to start is to search online. Many treatment centers are operating online now and can help you right away. They have someone available to talk to you either through online chatting, email, or a phone call.
Reach out to a treatment center that can offer your entire family help. The right treatment center will help the addicted parent through intervention to assist them in receiving detox help and rehabilitation services. They will also help the family set boundaries, and get help with personalized issues like anxiety and self-esteem.
Finally, the right treatment center will offer support beyond the treatment facility for the addicted parent in recovery. Sober living facilities are set up to help your parents practice living sober before they return home.
It’s a bonus for both parents and their children. It gives you both more time to heal so that you can enjoy long-term success when you do reunite.