Children of addicts may be more likely to try drugs or become addicted as they see their parents use drugs to have fun or deal with stress. Addiction takes the place of healthy relationships and behaviours, so without being raised with healthy examples children are unlikely to find healthy alternatives to drug use.
Growing up in a home with addiction often means more stress and less healthy interaction with loved ones. Addicted parents may be consumed by legal trouble, financial hardship, arguments with other loved ones, health problems and other issues that distract them from spending quality time with their children. Addiction sometimes causes anger management problems and may lead to physical or emotional abuse aimed at children. Children may retreat into their own lives and ignore other family members, or they may shoulder more responsibility in an effort to help their addicted parent.
How a Parent’s Addiction Hurts a Child’s Development
Children growing up with an addicted parent may be unsure of themselves and slow to develop social skills. Schoolwork may be hampered by problems at home, and children may not be motivated to succeed without a healthy role model. The stress of dealing with addiction in the home may lead to children developing anxiety disorders or depression as teenagers or adults; these issues may be compounded by an inability to cope with stress in a healthy way.
How to Help Children of Addicted Parents
Talk to children about healthy ways to cope with stress, depression and anxiety. So that they may guard against it as they grow older, teenage and adult children of addicts should know that they have an increased risk of addiction. Young children need to talk about their problems in a safe setting without drugs or alcohol. Children may be confused about the turmoil in their home and feel as if they caused it. They need to know that they haven’t done anything wrong and that their parent’s behaviour isn’t their fault. Children of all ages may benefit from family counselling to improve relationships and encourage the addicted parent to seek treatment.
Children of addicted parents should be encouraged to participate in age-appropriate activities with others. Healthy peer relationships can offset troubles at home and may prevent them from using drugs as a way to cope. Adult relatives can help children by serving as healthy role models and providing emotional support.
If you think that a parent is neglecting a child’s basic needs for drugs, then you should consider intervening. Attempt to talk to the parent’s spouse, older children or other loved ones about your concerns. Talk to others about planning an intervention to encourage treatment. If all else fails, consider calling Child Protective Services.
How to Find Treatment for Addiction
If you or a parent you know suffer from addiction, call us now. We can help you find a treatment or plan an intervention. Our counsellors are available 24 hours a day on our toll-free helpline, so call now to learn more about recovering from addiction.