Teens who live in a home with addicted parents learn three skills: silence, fear, and apathy. They’re afraid to speak up and tell someone what’s going on at home. Plus, the fear of physical abuse or neglect keeps them on edge. Eventually, apathy takes over and away goes their enthusiasm for life. As a result, teens with addicted parents become depressed and the condition can persist throughout their lifetime.
About 8.7 million American children under age 17 live in a household with at least one addicted parent. Far too many of these kids become alcoholics or drug abusers at an early age. If they know where to turn for help without fear of repercussions, their lives might progress more satisfactorily.
Parents who are addicts are not only having a damaging effect on their own lives; the consequences of their behavior extend to affect their children in various ways. Many of the children experience difficulties with concentrating and struggle with cognitive abilities. They also have trouble controlling physical or emotional responses to stress. Many of them have problems with trust in relationships. Some of those effects can last a lifetime.
Other effects of being the child of an alcoholic or drug addict show up when these kids become adults and have families of their own. If they follow in their parents’ footsteps and develop a substance abuse problem, they may abuse or neglect their own children, and the cycle keeps repeating down through the generations in some families.
Overall, the teens with addicted parents don’t always reach their full potential in life because of the after-effects of their dysfunctional childhood.
Here are a few more ways a child is affected by addicted parents:
Of course, some children of addicts grow up to be the complete opposite of their parents by living completely sober lives. Researchers are interested in learning more about how and why this happens. They have conducted tests on twins to gain a better understanding of how living with alcoholics or drug addicts affects children. For instance, in the study, one twin became an alcoholic or substance abusers, while the other twin did not. They also studied twins who grew up in separate homes to gain insight into whether a person can be predisposed to addictions. The studies are not conclusive, but preliminary results are showing a strong connection to genetics playing a role in addiction.
Children of addicts must learn to trust someone and talk to them about their feelings. Sadly, many of the teens feel ashamed or guilty, blaming themselves for their parents’ behaviors. They view themselves as “bad,” and feel that they deserve punishment. Finding someone they can trust and talk to is a step forward toward healing.
In the U.S., a diverse group of organizations is dedicated to helping children of addicts. Such programs as:
This is only a partial listing of the many services available to help teens of addicted parents. There are hundreds of organizations nationwide that are dedicated to helping young people learn to cope with the consequences of their parents’ behaviors.
If you would like more information about teens with addicted parents, please give us a call today. One of our representatives will be happy to answer your questions and provide more resources. We can also be of assistance if you or someone you know needs treatment for substance abuse. Learn more about our program here, or give us a call today.