When the adults in a family are focused on keeping the alcoholic or addict in line, they often don’t notice what the children are going through. Sometimes, they mistakenly believe young children are not affected. Even when children don’t witness the drinking or drug use firsthand, they are affected. They know more than you think.
Make children your number-one priority. Be sure they are safe. Talk to them about alcoholism. Explain that it is a disease. It is nobody’s fault, and the sick person can’t help him- or herself. Give children a safe harbor, a person to talk to, and be honest with them. If a child is endangered by a parent or caregiver’s addiction, it is your duty to act. For guidelines on helping a child, visit the website of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics.
Family Recovery Means Children Too! by Jerry Moe, M.A. In the United States alone, there are over eleven million kids living in alcoholic homes. Most silently and eloquently obey the cardinal rule of the addicted family, “don’t talk.” They are trapped in silence by a family that usually denies the existence of the illness which grips it. These children often have no place to turn.
Resilience: A Multicultural Perspective, by James H. Evans, M.A. At the 1995 NACoA Conference in San Diego, I participated in a panel that looked at cross cultural issues for children of alcoholics. I chose to look at the Resilience concept from an African-American perspective. It occurred to me, in preparing for that talk, that the seven resiliencies bore some resemblance to “Seven Principles of Kwanzaa.”
Listen to the Voices of the Family, by William Cope Moyers. I called my wife from a detox center and told her that I could not continue to be her husband, or the father of our two boys, until I was able to recover from my addiction to alcohol and drugs. In other words, I needed to stay long-term in a treatment facility to focus all of my time and energy on getting better. I simply could not use the excuse anymore that other things were more important than getting help for my disease.
Children of Alcoholics Support Groups, by Claudia Black, Ph.D. Most of us have seen how emotionally stressed spouses become in their growing isolation when living with an addicted partner. Why would we expect children to withstand the confusion and hurt of addictive behaviors alone? We must support them in their present resiliency and intervene to protect and greater coping skills. It is too much to ask children to cope with the pain and loneliness of addiction in their family by themselves.
For more articles on children with parents addicted to alcohol or other drugs, click here. Another helpful resource is the Children of Alcoholics Foundation.
To learn the facts about how children are affected by the addiction of a parent or a caregiver, click here to read Children of Alcoholics: Important Facts.
A great web site for children of alcoholic parents is called Just 4 Kids. In English or Spanish, it includes questions and answers about addiction, fun things to do, good things to learn, online resources, and more. Click here.