Child Safety is of the Utmost Importance
Research studies estimate that about 12 percent of all children in the United States - about 8.3 million of them - live with people who abuse drugs and alcohol, and who are addicted to these substances. With such high numbers, it is clear that child safety is of the utmost importance.
Substance abuse and addiction interferes with healthy decision making and daily living. Children who live with parents who are struggling with these conditions often end up feeling vulnerable. Some of them might also be at risk of actual physical, emotional, or psychological harm.
The trauma that these children experience can also increase their risk of developing major problems later on in their lives. It is for this reason that many of the children of addicts suffer suicidal tendencies, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, and similar issues of substance abuse and addiction. To ensure that these children are safe, early intervention is necessary.
Understanding Parental Addiction
When someone is struggling with a substance use disorder, their moods would be elevated and they would typically more talkative than usual. Additionally, they may suffer from reduced inhibitions and have high levels of energy.
When the alcohol and drugs start leaving their system, it is also highly likely that they could suffer from bouts of violence and anger, as well as agitation, irritability, restlessness, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
While children are living with such people, they would not know what they should expect. This is particularly true if the addict is their parent. This is because the parents' behavior could become unpredictable and erratic. Further, the parents might make promises that they will eventually break. As a result, the home environment would be unstable for the children.
There are other signs and symptoms that a parent might be abusing alcohol and drugs, and struggling with addiction. These signs include:
- They could suffer from alcohol and drug cravings
- They may develop tolerance to their favorite substances of abuse, meaning that they need to take more of them to experience the pleasurable effects that they crave
- They may find that they use these substances in larger quantities or for longer time periods than they initially intended
- They will continue using these substances in spite of the negative consequences they suffer as a result of doing so
- They will develop withdrawal symptoms whenever they are not using drugs or drinking alcohol, including signs like fever, runny nose, high or low blood pressure, irregular heart rate, and more
- They will stop engaging in the activities that they used to enjoy due to the ongoing drug problem
- They would be unable to fulfil their responsibilities at work, home, and school due to their substance abuse
- They would spend most of their time looking for and acquiring substances of abuse, taking these substances, and recovering from the adverse effects of substance abuse
- They would still drink alcohol or use drugs even if they were in a dangerous situation
- They would want to stop using drugs and drinking alcohol but find that they are no longer able to
Effects of Parental Substance Abuse
If you live in a household where your caretaker or parent abuses intoxicating substances, it does not necessarily mean that you are going to be abused. However, it is one of the major risk factors of abuse that you should always be aware of.
Research studies have shown that children who live in families where their parents abuse drugs often have a high risk of experiencing problems like domestic abuse and learning difficulties later on their lives.
The impact of parental substance abuse can also cause these children to suffer various other negative consequences, including but not limited to:
- Emotional abuse
- Other risks
- Physical abuse
The fact that your parents have alcohol and drug problems might also affect your siblings in different ways depending on their personality, development stage, and age. There might also be many other factors in the family that could put all the children at risk.
Today, addiction treatment professionals and many other mental health and child protection experts work with families and children to assess, identify, and intervene. By so doing, they effectively minimize the negative impact of parental substance abuse on children.
Often, this involves a holistic and honest assessment of the development of the children, as well as of the ability of their parents to meet their needs. The practitioners also check the impact of the parents' addiction on broader environmental and family factors.
Addiction Intervention for the Children of Addicts
Today, there are some interventions designed to help and support families that are struggling with parent substance abuse. Most of these interventions depend on holistic approaches. However, all of them are designed to target the family's:
- Daily functioning
- Parent to child relationships
- Psychological functioning
- Social factors, including the family's financial situation, housing, and support network
The important thing to keep in mind is that child safety is of the utmost importance especially when dealing with a situation in which the parents or one of them is addicted to drugs or alcohol.
It is also essential that all parties that are involved try to understand the situation from the perspective of the affected children. They should also try to support these children without necessarily considering the environmental impact of parental substance abuse that might not always help in bringing about any change.
The parents should also be helped so that they can accept to check into an addiction treatment and rehabilitation program. Even so, it would typically take some time for these parents to completely change their behavior. To this end, the time-frames for the interventions should always be flexible. There should always be a balance between highly focused services that are time limited and the long term support that these parents will receive. In particular, the parents should be able to access:
- Drug and alcohol addiction treatment services
- Family and friend support
- Monitoring progress
- Parenting and family therapy and support
- Practical support
- Taking the children into care
Help for the Children of Addicts
Children often have a difficult time dealing with their parents' addiction. Although this condition is now classified as a disease of the brain, the children might still not know what they are going to do.
It is important that they try to get help for their addicted parents. If you find yourself in this situation, you should talk to an adult that you trust - such as a counselor in your school. You should also realize that help is available for your family and that you do not have to shoulder this responsibility on your own.
You should also keep in mind that the fact that your parents abuse drugs and drink alcohol excessively is not because of you, nor is it your fault. This is because people make choices, and some of these choices have negative consequences.
By understanding that your parents need to take responsibility for their action, you can start ensuring your safety as well as the health and wellness of your other siblings at home.
Some of the ways to deal with parents who abuse drugs and drink alcohol include:
1. Acknowledge the Issue
For starters, you should know that trying to hide the fact that your parents are addicted will only make the problem worse than it already is. Instead, you should acknowledge that they have a problem - and this could be the first step to taking control of the situation.
It is advised that you talk to trusted adults, including close relatives, friends, counselors, and teachers about this problem. You can also get in touch with any addiction treatment program to find out more about what you can do to deal with the issue.
2. Understand Your Emotions
When your parents are abusing drugs and drinking alcohol, it is normal to feel discouraged, fear, resentment, and anger. All these emotions arise because you are trying to understand the problems that your parents are going through. By understanding your emotions, you could gain the strength that you need to get them the help that they need.
3. Inform Yourself
You should always be aware of all the different ways that your parents' substance abuse and addiction has been affecting you, as well as the rest of the family. By so doing, you will be able to get a clear idea of just how important it is to get help. It could also encourage you to start getting help before things get out of control.
4. Find Support
You might also want to identify all the people that you can turn to in case you need help. For instance, you can talk to trusted friends and their parents. You can also inform your teach of everything that is happening back at home. By building up a group of people that you can count on for support, you will always be able to find a way to resolve the issues at home.
Overall, parental substance abuse and addiction can affect you and the rest of your family for many years to come. It is for this reason that you need to understand that child safety is of the utmost importance. Through this understanding, you will be able to get help both for your parents and for the rest of your siblings.
If you or a loved one needs help for substance abuse or addiction, fill out the form below and a counselor will respond shortly.