A Guide for Children With Addicted Parents

by | Last updated Mar 6, 2023 | Published on May 13, 2021 | Family Recovery | 0 comments

children of addicted parents

Substance abuse is no respecter of innocent people. Many children throughout the United States grow up in a household where addiction is present; the number is somewhere close to 25 percent of American kids. That’s 18 million children throughout the United States that grow up experiencing the splatter effects of substance use disorder (SUD). 

What’s even worse than this is that those kids who grow up in a household where SUD exists are twice as likely to become addicted when they try either drugs or alcohol. However, not all hope is lost; children have the potential to change the tides in their parent’s lives. These days, kids have access to a great many resources to help them foster the recovery journey. This not only has an impact on the children who are helping their parents but on them as well.

The Parental Child

In any natural family dynamic, the parent is ultimately the caregiver. This role is very important as it assumes the responsibility of keeping a roof over a child’s head, filling their bellies, and giving them emotional support. In a child’s development, security and consistency in these areas are imperative. Addiction in parents tends to switch these roles. Once this happens, the child, who is still developing and is not ready for a transition like this, becomes the caregiver.

Whether it’s picking their drunken father up from the bar or trying to make money to cover the stack of unpaid bills on the kitchen counter, a parent’s substance abuse can have a costly impact on their children. When a child is developing, their brain is focused on minuscule tasks and relationships, but when they have to start taking care of their parents, their development and worldview are hindered. 

Children who suffer from the repercussions of their parent’s substance abuse come to a crossroads where they have to put up or shut up. The level of maturity they have to take on is not one they are ready for in their development. Kids need guidance, encouragement, and provision; developing in isolation is not healthy for children, and this responsibility that they are seemingly forced to assume is extremely unfair, especially when someone is struggling to find who they are. 

It is also worth mentioning that children who have to end up providing for themselves due to their parent’s substance abuse are at a higher risk of danger than those whose parents are sober. This means injuries, crime, hunger, or neglect could be knocking at any one of their doors at any moment. Sometimes kids are even scared to bring their friends around because of their parent’s drunk or high behavior. This leads to poor social skills because these children aren’t able to forge strong bonds with their peers.

Finding Help for Children with Parents Who Suffer from Addiction

Many children are responsible for not only themselves but also their parents. The reality of this circumstance is that they need help. What’s most difficult about this truth is that finding help is not the easiest task. Resourcefulness is a gift that not many people harbor, and it’s not particularly easy for a child to find resources outside of their home. This leaves some kids discouraged from attempting to find any sort of help simply because they don’t know where to start. 

What makes things even more difficult for these children is that their parents may become hostile if they find out that their kid is letting others in on what’s going on. These parents may not even believe there to be an issue, and this could lead parents to become even more frustrated. This could be because a parent feels as though their child is betraying them by telling others that something is wrong with their parents, or because of the legal troubles they could potentially fall into. 

Living in a household that is plagued with addiction has a disastrous effect on children. Some of this impact is felt in the area of self-worth. Once their self-esteem is diminished, they can’t muster the confidence to ask an authority figure or any sober-minded adult for help. For a child, self-esteem issues that develop early have the potential to carry on in an unhealthy way to adulthood. 

According to the National Council of State Legislatures, addiction among parents is a leading cause in cases where children run away from home. In the same studies, it is revealed that almost half of all runaway children experienced physical abuse, while nearly 40 percent experienced emotional abuse. The saddest part about this study is that emotional and physical abuse is common in families where parents are substance abusers. 

How to Get a Parent to Seek Help

Regardless of how you slice it, finding help for one’s parents and talking to their parents about their addiction problem are two completely different things in terms of ease. Finding some treatment options may be easy, but when it comes to talking with a parent about their substance abuse and the fact that they need help, it’s a very thin ice to tread. To some parents, a child asking them to get help may seem like they don’t trust them or that they are betraying them. This can trigger a parent to react in a way that is frightening to the teen. 

Drugs and alcohol have a way of manipulating the minds and hearts of those who abuse them. To some parents, they may not even feel as though they are addicted or that a problem exists. Regardless of what they believe to be true about themselves, however, the children must make clear how the addiction is impacting them. This is when something like an intervention may come in handy. 

Having an Intervention for a Parent

Interventions are planned, strategic conversations in which those who struggle from substance abuse and their loved ones discuss their addiction. Interventions can help someone see how their substance abuse is impacting those that they love. These meetings are usually held in an environment that is comfortable for everyone. It is best to have a trained intervention specialist present to moderate and help guide the discussion. 

The ultimate goal is to communicate to an addicted person how their actions are negatively impacting those they love. This method has been known to be successful in many cases of addiction. An intervention may be the necessary step to take if your parent is suffering from substance abuse. 

Treatment Options

For many, treatment for addiction can be vastly intimidating. Depending on someone’s needs, the right form of care could be any number of methods. This is why it is imperative that those who are finding treatment for a loved one know everything there is to know concerning their treatment options. 

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient residential treatment is a method of care in which a patient stays at a treatment facility for an extended amount of time. This could last anywhere from 28 days to six months. Inpatient treatment gives patients access to professional medical personnel 24/7 and also provides them with therapists and psychiatrists throughout the week to help them along in their recovery journey. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is a step down from inpatient care, helping patients transition from a treatment facility to the real world. Outpatient care isn’t just a transitional form of care, however; it is also for those who only suffer from mild forms of substance abuse. This level of treatment gives patients access to therapists and psychiatrists 10-12 hours weekly and could last anywhere from three months to over a year. This allows those who participate to recover on their time with minimal disruption to their daily lives. 

Detox Treatment

Detox and medically assisted treatment (MAT) are crucial for most patient’s recovery journeys. Symptoms of withdrawal can make recovery next to impossible and very uncomfortable, so much so that sobriety seems like it isn’t worth it. This is why MAT is available to those who need it. This helps wean patients who suffer from alcohol or drug withdrawal comfortably so that they can have the best recovery experience possible. 

You’re Not Alone

For children whose parents suffer from addiction, it is effortless to feel as though they are alone. In a stage of life where they are developing in a very complex way, taking care of an addicted parent is detrimental to their growth as an individual. This doesn’t have to be a lone battle, however, as there are many options available at their disposal to help their parents overcome their addiction. Having a loving and understanding of conversations is the first step. If it feels as though that is impossible, talk to a sober adult or authority figure. If your parent is struggling with addiction and you want to know what steps to take next, you can contact us here, or call us at (888) 291-4362.





Written by: Nick B.

Nicholas B. is the Corporate Director of Admissions for our substance abuse and behavioral health company. Nick’s mission is to provide quality care to every person that reaches out regarding substance abuse or behavioral health questions. Knowledge of an ever-changing industry, compassion when dealing with people, and compliance in every decision are the forces that drive his personal and professional growth.

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