Substance Use

Children of Addicted Parents: How To Help Addict Parents

teenage son with alcoholic parents arguing

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Having an addicted parent can be a difficult and emotional experience for children. It’s important to understand the complexities of addiction, how it affects your loved one and those around them, and what strategies you can use to cope with the situation. 

Children of addicted parents experience emotional, behavioral, and physical impacts.

When it comes to children of addicted parents and how to help addict parents, there are several options. These include treatment programs, aftercare services, and more that you should consider when looking for ways to support your family member or friend who is struggling with addiction.

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Effects of Parental Addiction on Children

Parental addiction and associated problems such as domestic violence and sexual abuse can have a devastating impact on child welfare. The emotional, behavioral, and physical effects of parental addiction can be long-lasting and difficult to overcome. Children of alcoholic parents often experience a range of challenges and emotional difficulties as they navigate their formative years.

Growing up in such environments along with adverse childhood experiences can lead to feelings of instability, fear, and neglect.

Adult children of alcoholics may struggle with:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Trust issues
  • Difficulties forming healthy relationships
  • Behavioral problems such as aggression, defiance, or withdrawal

Additionally, these children often take on caregiving roles beyond their years, assuming responsibilities that should be shouldered by their parents. The impact of parental addiction can extend into adulthood, shaping the psychological well-being and interpersonal dynamics of the affected individuals.

Recognizing and addressing the needs of children of alcoholic parents is crucial for breaking the cycle of addiction and fostering resilience and healing within families.

1. Emotional Impact

The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare indicates that the emotional impact of parental addiction is profound. (3)

Children of parents with alcohol addiction may feel:

  • Scared
  • Confused
  • Angry
  • Ashamed

They may also experience feelings of guilt for not being able to “fix” the situation or help their parents get better.

In addition to these negative emotions, children of addicted parents often struggle with depression and anxiety due to the chaotic environment in which they live.

2. Behavioral Impact

Children of alcoholics or drug addicts often exhibit disruptive behaviors, such as aggression or defiance towards authority figures like teachers or police officers. They may also engage in risky behaviors such as drug use to cope with the stress of living with an addicted parent.

It is also very common for young people who’ve seen their caregivers struggle with addiction to end up repeating the same cycles. They may become withdrawn from family activities and friends due to feelings of shame or embarrassment about their home life situation.

3. Physical Impact

Children of addicts can also suffer from physical health problems due to their parent’s addiction. They may experience poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, and exposure to second-hand smoke or other substances.

Coping Strategies for Children of Addicted Parents

Having a parent who is struggling with addiction can be difficult and confusing. Remember that you’re not alone in this experience, and there are ways to cope with the situation.

Here are some strategies for children of addicted parents:

1. Develop Healthy Coping Skills

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developing healthy coping skills can help you manage your emotions when dealing with parental substance use. (4)

This could include journaling, yoga, meditation, or talking to someone about your feelings. These activities will give you an outlet to express yourself without judgment or criticism from others.

2. Find Supportive People to Talk To

Talking about your experiences can help manage the stress associated with having an addicted parent. Find supportive people who understand what you’re going through and can provide comfort and guidance during this time.

You may want to consider joining a support group specifically designed for children of addicts so that you have access to peers who share similar experiences as yours.

The most important thing to remember is that your parent’s addiction isn’t your fault.

3. Seek Professional Help

Seek professional help from a mental health provider, such as a therapist or school counselor who works with families affected by addiction. A professional can provide individual counseling sessions explicitly tailored toward helping you cope.

They may also suggest family therapy sessions that could benefit both yourself and other members of your family impacted by the addiction issue.

Understanding Addiction

Addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is a chronic brain disorder characterized by compulsive drug or alcohol use despite negative consequences. (1) It’s a complex condition that affects how an individual thinks, feels, and behaves.

Addiction is a persistent pattern of substance abuse leading to significant impairment in functioning or distress. It can be physical, psychological, or both, and involves using drugs or alcohol compulsively despite knowing its harmful effects on one’s life.

Being an addict doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It means you may need help to overcome drug and alcohol abuse problems.

The causes of addiction are varied and complex, often involving:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Environmental factors such as stressors and trauma
  • Mental health issues like depression and anxiety (2)
  • Peer pressure
  • Family dynamics
  • Lack of coping skills for managing difficult emotions or situations
  • Low self-esteem and self-worth issues

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Signs that someone may be struggling with addiction include changes in behavior, such as:

  • Isolation from friends or family members
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home or work
  • Increased secrecy around activities
  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope with negative feelings
  • Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence (e.g., driving)
  • Spending large amounts of money on substances despite the financial strain
  • Exhibiting physical signs such as fatigue or weight loss

It’s essential to understand the nature of addiction and its effects on individuals to help those struggling with it. However, knowing the impacts of parental addiction on children can be just as crucial for providing effective support.

How To Help an Addicted Parent

It can be challenging to know how to help an addicted parent. It’s essential to understand that addiction is a complex and chronic disease requiring professional treatment for the individual to achieve lasting recovery.

Educating yourself about addiction and treatment options can help you better support your loved one on their journey of recovery. Know that your parent’s addiction is not your fault or your responsibility, but there are ways you can help yourself while supporting them.

1. Educate Yourself About Addiction and Treatment Options

Learning more about addiction will give you a better understanding of why your parent may have difficulty stopping their substance use despite negative consequences.

Researching different types of available treatments, such as:

These can also provide valuable information when deciding what kind of care best suits your parent’s needs. (5)(6)

2. Set Boundaries and Stick To Them

Setting boundaries with an addicted parent is essential for protecting yourself from enabling behaviors or emotional manipulation. You should make sure that any boundaries set are clear, consistent, reasonable, and enforced without fail. 

Additionally, don’t take responsibility for another person’s behavior. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself first while providing support when possible.

Encouraging an addicted family member to seek professional help can be challenging but beneficial. Start by expressing concern over their health and well-being rather than focusing solely on their substance abuse.

This allows them to see that you genuinely care about them as a person, rather than just wanting them to stop using drugs or alcohol out of judgment or anger towards them. Offer resources such as hotlines or online forums where they can find additional support.

Remember: you can offer support and resources, but it is their responsibility to accept the help.

Treatment Options for Addicted Parents

Addicted parents have a variety of treatment options available to help them make healthy choices, such as inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs and medication-assisted treatment.

Aftercare services can also help maintain long-term sobriety.

1. Inpatient Rehabilitation Programs

Inpatient rehabilitation programs provide intensive treatment for those struggling with addiction. These drug rehab programs typically involve 24-hour supervision, medical care, and individual and group therapy sessions.

During inpatient rehab, individuals stay at a residential facility where they can focus on their recovery without the distractions of everyday life. This type of program is often recommended for those with severe addictions or co-occurring mental health disorders requiring more intensive treatment than an outpatient program can offer.

2. Outpatient Rehabilitation Programs

Outpatient rehabilitation programs help individuals recover from addiction while living at home or in a sober environment.

These programs typically involve attending regular counseling sessions, participating in support groups, and engaging in other activities such as recreational therapy or job training.

Outpatient rehab is often recommended for those who have milder addictions or need additional support services after completing an inpatient program.

3. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Programs

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) involves using medications such as methadone and buprenorphine to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid use disorder.

MAT also includes counseling services to help individuals learn new coping skills and develop healthier habits that will enable them to abstain from drugs over the long term.

This type of program is often used when traditional forms of treatment haven’t been successful or when there’s a higher risk of relapse due to underlying mental health issues or environmental factors like poverty or homelessness.

Aftercare Services for Addicted Parents

Aftercare services for addicted parents are a vital part of the recovery process. Support groups and 12-step programs provide a safe space to share experiences, build relationships with peers in similar situations, and learn from each other’s successes and challenges.

These meetings can also help individuals stay accountable by providing structure and support as they work toward their goals. Individual counseling sessions offer personalized guidance tailored to the individual’s unique needs. 

1. Support Groups and 12-Step Programs

Support groups provide peer support for those struggling with addiction. These include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Al-Anon
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)
  • Codependents Anonymous (CoDA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Alateen

They offer a safe place where members can talk openly about their struggles without fear of judgment or criticism from others.

In addition to providing emotional support, these meetings often include educational components that teach participants how to recognize triggers for relapse and strategies for managing cravings when they arise.

2. Individual Counseling Sessions

Individual counseling sessions allow individuals struggling with addiction to receive one-on-one attention from a qualified professional experienced in treating substance use disorders (SUD).

During these sessions, counselors may discuss stress management techniques, coping skills, lifestyle changes that promote sobriety, and relapse prevention strategies.

3. Family Therapy Sessions

Family therapy is a key component of aftercare services because it helps families better understand addiction so they can better support their loved ones during recovery.

It can help the whole family heal any past wounds caused by the addictive behavior of their loved one(s).

Through family therapy sessions led by a licensed therapist or counselor trained in working with addicts’ families, members learn healthy communication skills that enable them to express themselves more effectively.

FAQs for Children of Addicted Parents: How To Help Addict Parents

These frequently asked questions will help children suffering from parental substance abuse to develop a better understanding of how best to support their parent(s) during recovery.

1. What Parenting Style Is Most Associated With Substance Abuse?

A common parenting style with substance abuse is an authoritarian approach. (7) This type of parenting involves strict rules and expectations, limited communication between parent and child, and a lack of warmth or emotional support.

Children raised in this environment are more likely to develop negative coping mechanisms such as substance abuse as they grow older. In addition, research suggests that the lack of parental guidance can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, which may further have a greater risk for addiction later on in life.

2. What Are Three Ways Children Can Be Greatly Impacted by Addiction in a Family?

  1. Children of addicts can suffer from mental illnesses or emotional distress, such as anxiety and depression, due to the instability that addiction brings into their home environment.
  2. Addiction can lead to neglect or abuse of children in a family, which can have long-term psychological effects on them.
  3. The financial strain caused by an addict’s substance use may prevent children from having access to basic needs like food, clothing, and education, leading to poor physical health and educational outcomes.

3. How Can People Recover From Addiction?

  1. Seek professional help. Addiction is a complex issue that often requires the guidance of an experienced therapist or addiction specialist.
  2. Develop a support system. Connect with family, friends, and other individuals who have gone through similar experiences and can provide emotional support throughout your recovery journey.
  3. Take part in self-care activities. Make time for yourself to relax and do things you enjoy, such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, reading books, etc., which will help reduce stress levels associated with addiction recovery.
  4. Stay away from triggers. Identify what triggers your cravings for drugs or alcohol and stay away from them at all costs during the early stages of recovery when temptation is high.
  5. Participate in 12-step programs. These are evidence-based treatment plans designed to help individuals overcome their addictions by providing peer support and guidance on how to live a healthier lifestyle free from substance abuse.

4. What Can Families Do To Cope With a Loved One’s Addiction?

Families of addicts can do a lot to cope with their loved one’s addiction.

  • Educate themselves on the nature of addiction and how best to support their loved one in recovery. This includes understanding triggers and warning signs, setting healthy boundaries, and providing emotional support.
  • Seek out professional help, such as therapy or counseling sessions for both the addict and family members.
  • Look into community resources like 12-step programs that provide additional guidance on coping with addiction in the home environment.

By taking these steps, families can better understand how to effectively manage their loved one’s drug abuse while also learning how to take care of themselves during this difficult time.

Get Help for Your Addicted Loved One Today

Addiction is a complex and difficult condition, and helping an addicted parent can be challenging. However, with the right support, resources, and treatment options available for both the addict and their children, it’s possible to create a healthier future for everyone involved.

Parents struggling with addiction often feel overwhelmed and alone when facing the difficult task of quitting drugs and alcohol. That’s why at Zinnia Health, we are here to provide the support, counseling, and treatment resources needed throughout rehabilitation. Call (855) 430-9439 to get help today.


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