Millions of Americans struggle with drug addiction, which is often accompanied by negative repercussions for both the user and their loved ones. Addiction wears many faces, and sometimes those who struggle with addiction may be parents. Addicted parents or those struggling with substance abuse problems can negatively impact their children’s lives inadvertently, even when steps are taken to avoid doing so. Addiction may cause children to experience neglect, abuse, or maltreatment. Parents may not even be aware of the way in which their actions affect their children due to the way substances can alter perception. This occurs far too often, making it imperative to address the ways in which children are affected by their parent’s substance abuse.
Children of Addicted Parents
Eleven million children in the United States live in a home where at least one parent struggles with addiction. Substance abuse can make home life unstable or chaotic due to the way in which addiction affects users. An addicted person may experience severe mood swings and other debilitating side effects that make children uncertain about how their parent(s) may feel or react to situations at any given moment. In most cases, order and rules do not exist in these homes because an addicted parent is not able to establish and maintain them.
Children can react to these environments in different ways. A lack of structure requires children to become more self-reliant, managing the house and siblings to create some level of structure and normality. Children in these homes may need to clean up the home, prepare meals, and care for others because their parent(s) is not able to, and despite this, a parent struggling with addiction may continue to blame their children for their affliction. This tumultuous environment can create numerous problems. Regardless of a child’s efforts, they may ultimately blame themselves to some extent and harbor resentment towards their parent(s) for their inability to seek help. While a child may recognize that the problem is not theirs but rather the addicted parent’s, they may still experience feelings of rejection and neglect as a result of their parent’s actions. These environments can negatively impact a child’s self-esteem, leaving them anxious, depressed, and having difficulty forming meaningful relationships.
Breaking the Cycle | Living with Addicted Parents
Children who live in homes with addicted parents may find themselves falling victim to a vicious cycle. Children of addiction parents are two to four times more likely to struggle with substance abuse than their peers. In order to break this cycle, it is imperative for children of addicts to have sober, stable adults in their lives. Evidence shows that children of addicted parents benefit greatly from the intervention of reliable adults. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, stepparents, and even family friends can help children better cope with the trauma and stress of living in an unstable environment. With reliable support, children are able to develop independence and autonomy rather than trying to rely on addicted parents. The presence of a stable adult also helps children develop social skills and the ability to cope with stressors in a healthy way.
Studies show that building support networks with those who can relate to one’s experiences can greatly reduce the likelihood of substance abuse development. Children who engage in group support and therapy have been shown to have more effective methods of coping with guilt, embarrassment, shame, isolation, and other negative emotions that children in these situations often experience. By developing a network of peers who share similar situations, children develop meaningful relationships with others who help them understand that they are not alone in their experiences.
In order to most effectively combat the negative repercussions of a parent’s substance abuse problems, it is important for children to have at least one stable adult in their lives that they are able to rely on, and a support network of peers who can help them break the cycle. With these resources in place, children can combat the influences that may cause them to follow in their parent’s footsteps. This type of support helps improve self-esteem and self-reliance, creating strong children who are able to establish healthy relationships and cope with stressful situations in productive ways. Caring for the children of addicts is the most effective way to stop the cycle of abuse. Empowering them to take control of their lives regardless of their parent’s ability to do so is incredibly meaningful and important in addressing the addiction epidemic.
Is someone in your family struggling with addiction?
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