Coping With An Addicted Parent

It is extremely difficult for the children of addicted parents to make it through their childhoods unscathed. Children tend to blame themselves for the addictions of their parents, constantly wondering what they did to cause their parents to choose drugs or alcohol over them. Addicted parents tend to be far more emotionally and physically abusive to their children – and even if there is no abuse in the household, there is frequently excessive discord, instability, and a severe lack of emotional connectedness. Because of this, children tend to grow up socially isolated, experiencing stunts in emotional development as well as progressive behavioral problems. Unfortunately, the mental and emotional wellbeing of the children of addicted parents is often overlooked – adolescents and young adults remain the most frequently underserved group in regards to provided services for family members of addicts. Because of this, addiction within the immediate family can have a lasting negative impact on the children of addicts and alcoholics, including mood disorders, antisocial behavior, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Children of Addicted Parents Are More At Risk For Addiction Themselves

There are several qualities of children of addicted parents that typically last into adulthood if emotional distress is not properly addressed and treated early on. Characteristics of those raised in “addicted households” include:

    • Immense amounts of guilt and shame related to feelings of responsibility and helplessness.
    • Feelings of general bitterness and hostility related to long-standing resentments.
    • A withdrawn and quiet demeanor based on feelings of emotional abandonment during childhood.
    • Difficulty identifying and executing moral principles, resulting from a lack of guidance and moralistic role models during development.
    • Emotional reservation based on lack of emotional openness within the childhood household.
    • An insecure and approval-seeking demeanor related to an absence of validation early on.

It Is Important That Kids Understand It Is Not Their Fault

If children are not taught how to cope with an addicted parent or growing up within an addicted and emotionally unstable household, it is extremely likely that serious behavioral and emotional consequences will result later in life. Because of this, The National Association for Children of Alcoholics has created a simple way for children to understand and cope with the addiction of their mother or father. This coping mechanism is known as “The 3 C’s”, and has proven extremely effective in helping children comprehend that addiction is not their fault.

  • Cause – children must know that they did not cause the addiction… it is in no way their fault.
  • Cure – children cannot cure their parents, they need to know they are not responsible.
  • Control – it is important for children to understand that they have no control over the situation.

Encouraging children to care for themselves by communicating their feelings, making healthy choices, and spending ample time focusing on themselves, the devastation of addicted parents can be alleviated. If you are aware of a children who may be living in an addicted household and lacking sufficient parental support and love, call one of our trained addiction specialists to find out what steps you can take in order to provide them with the nurturing they need.

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