This page will explain how parent addictions can affect children, how they can potentially cause changes in the behaviour of children, what can be done to support families where addiction has taken over, and the different types of medical treatment and resources that are available to parents struggling with addiction.
The Effects of Addiction on Children
The effects of parent addictions on children can be extremely damaging, both in the short-term and the long-term. Addictions can vary and may include shopping, gambling, sex, alcohol, and drugs. In situations where parents become addicted, they forget or neglect their responsibilities in favour of fueling and sustaining their addiction. Once this happens, it will inevitably have an effect on the people close to them, and that includes their children.
While addiction can break up marriages and couples, the forgotten important factor in these scenarios is often the child. They will likely become an afterthought, and as a result, their needs will not be catered to.
In the short-term this can affect their health and wellbeing if they are too young to communicate their needs. For example, if the child is a baby, there may be a risk that they may not receive enough food, water, sleep, and the love and attention that they require.
This of course also applies to older children, but the effects are also likely to increase as they become older. For instance, if the child is still in school, they may not be able to focus properly on things such as homework in the same home environment where their parents are frequently abusing drugs. They may experience difficulties at school and elsewhere as they may lack the social skills necessary to not only make friends, but to also communicate what they are going through (which could also prevent them from being able to ask for help).
If a parent’s addiction leads the parent to behaving in an aggressive or abusive way, this can put the child in danger of being physically or sexually assaulted, as there would be no other adult present in the situation to protect them from this form of harm. Children growing up in these environments may also be at risk of being abandoned by their parents. For instance, if the parent is constantly away from the home, this could put the child at risk of being in danger of accidentally hurting themselves. There is also the risk of a child being at home alone without an adult there to protect them.
In the long-term, children who have grown up in a household where a parent has a destructive addiction could find themselves suffering from lifelong trauma as a result of repressed memories from their childhood.
This could affect a lot of factors in their adult lives, such as relationships, job opportunities, communication skills, and their overall wellbeing and mental health. It is likely that they will require some form of counselling or therapy in order to cope with the trauma they have experienced.
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Supporting Children Affected by Addiction
If you are a teacher, a parent, or a person who has noticed a child might be in this situation and might be at risk, there are ways to help the child without potentially putting them at further risk. Teachers who have noticed a child in danger should aim to get the child to either confide in a qualified therapist or school counsellor if possible.
If this is not possible, or if the child has already confided in a teacher about their experiences, the teacher can then pass on this information to the school leaders and the relevant support networks that can help the child.
Other parents or adults who have noticed the warning signs of a child experiencing these things can also intervene by contacting the relevant support networks, and then outlining what they deem the situation to be. One example of a support network that people could reach out to would be the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), which is a British child protection charity that provides support throughout the UK.
Their principle responsibility is to provide protection for children, to investigate instances where there might be child abuse or neglect, and to also provide access to accommodation, schooling, food and water, clothing, counselling and therapy, as well as anything else that the child might require.
NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children)
In the event that a parent is facing addiction and is neglecting their responsibilities as a parent, organisations such as the NSPCC can intervene in order to make sure that the children affected get the help and support they need. In the short-term, this can come in the form of temporary accommodation, as well as access to a safe environment where they can get the resources they need to feel supported and return to a more secure state of wellbeing.
Long-term decisions depend on how the parent’s addiction is dealt with and whether or not it is resolved through rehab and therapy. This will largely be the deciding factor in whether or not the child continues to live with the parent, or if the decision is made by the NSPCC to rehome the child via a fostering programme.
How We Can Help
Support and advice is never too far away, and if you’re a parent struggling with addiction, your best course of action is to seek a form of medical treatment that will help you to overcome the withdrawal symptoms, that will help you to take back control of your life, and which will enable you to get back to being a good parent once again.
Residential treatment programs (also commonly referred to as rehab) allow parents to check themselves into facilities that seek to get to the root causes of their addictions, thereby enabling them to recognise how their addictions developed, and what steps can be taken to avoid relapse in the future.
With the services provided by the Providence Projects, this is achieved through access to a state-of-the-art private rehab facility. You will benefit from access to resources and physicians that monitor the progress of your recovery, and through family therapy sessions that help to repair relationships between parents and their children.