Parenting is the toughest job in the world. Many times parents that have substance abuse issues only think of the short-term effects that it will have on their kids. Once a parent gets into recovery, many believe that the negative impact on their children have left along with their substance use.
Statistics show that children of substance users have increased tendencies for Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) as well as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They also display lower self-esteem than kids in non-substance affected households. Almost 10% of children in the United States are being raised by at least one parent who misuses drugs or alcohol. This means that 10% of children in the United States have a higher risk of substance abuse or another mental health issue because of their parent(s).
Setting Them Up for Success
Assuring a better future for your child takes diligence and focus. Getting them to school on time, checking their homework, asking them about their day – these efforts are daily responsibilities, and they’re increasingly difficult to perform when drugs or alcohol dominate your time.
One survey asked parents in recovery about their children’s academic performance and revealed that 41% of them had a student who had to repeat a grade in school. How much different would those statistics look if the parents hadn’t been wrestling with addiction while trying to maintain the role of a dutiful parent? We may never know the answer empirically, but it’s clear that addiction and scholastic underperformance have a striking correlation.
Abuse Has Many Forms
Research has indicated that children of substance using parents are more likely to suffer abuse than in households where drugs and alcohol aren’t in play. When people think of the term “child abuse”, they often have a preconceived notion of what it entails. However, every family is different, and abuse can manifest itself in a number of ways:
- Actual physical violence toward your child while under the influence
- Sexual abuse – this might be as simple as behavior or lewd language that makes your child feel uncomfortable or confused
- Verbal abuse as a result of being under the influence
- Using your child as an alibi and forcing him/her to hide your substance-related activities
- Leaving your child unattended while you pursue your drug of choice
- Ignoring your child’s needs, complaints, or yearning for affection
Breaking the Cycle, Preventing Future Addiction
Whichever form of abuse a child may endure, it has disastrous ramifications on his or her life. Not only does addiction amplify the possibility of child abuse, but child abuse also increases the likelihood of addiction. It’s a vicious cycle.
One survey illustrates this phenomenon quite dramatically. Of the 178 recovering individuals interviewed, 84% of them report having been abused as children. That’s more than just a statistical anomaly; it’s a sure sign that abuse is cyclical, and it dovetails with addiction.
Running Away from the Problem(s)
Substance abuse negatively impacts your life in a myriad of ways, and chief among them is how it can drive away your loved ones. Neglectful behavior, moodiness, and emotional abuse can push your children to the point where they actually run away from home.
According to one study, a staggering 79% of homeless youth reported that they left behind a household where alcohol was prevalent and 54% recounted drug use in their immediate family. Addiction can be frightening, and some kids would rather flee the safety of home than deal with a parent who is using drugs or alcohol.
Inheritance vs. Learned Behavior
One of the enduring debates in the psychology world is the tug of war between nature and nurture. Are we born a certain way or are we conditioned to behave so? Whichever school of thought intrigues you more, it is statistically significant that children of those who use substances are more likely to use those substances themselves.
It’s important not to dwell on the blame game if your child should develop a habit of alcoholism or drug addiction. Instead of torturing yourself or denying your part in the pattern, focus on identifying the scope of the issue. You don’t want your child to struggle with the same demons you’ve fought so hard to overcome, so diagnosing the problem early is key to helping stave off the trajectory of substance abuse.
Find Strength, Find Hope, Find Help
If you determine that your child has, in fact, fallen into the pitfalls of addiction, don’t panic. Draw upon your own triumphs on the road to recovery and build from those successes. Set boundaries and make sure your child adheres to them. Never make excuses; did excuses ever help YOU when you were in the throes of substance misuse?
Most importantly, don’t try to be a Supermom (or Superdad). You’re already a hero, so you don’t need to prove it by going it alone. Please understand how recovery is a process and it requires the help of trained professionals and caregivers. We applaud your parenting prowess up to this point; now let us ease your burden.
Contact us today and begin the next phase of getting your family the help that it deserves!