"In the United Sates alone, there are over eleven million kids living in alcoholic homes. Countless others have parents addicted to other drugs. Most silently and eloquently obey the cardinal rule of the addicted family: 'Don't talk.' They are trapped in silence by a family that denies the existence of the illness which grips it. These children often have no place to turn, as alcoholism wreaks its own terror, chaos, and pain. Further, they are at high risk eventually to abuse alcohol and other drugs themselves, and thereby perpetuate the disease through their own children"
The fallout for children of addicted parents can be varied and far-reaching. Many develop depression, anxiety, and/or other emotional and mental health disorders such as fetal alcohol syndrome, ADHD, and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), as well as problems with alcohol and drug abuse themselves.
Other common challenges for these kids may include: living with family conflict, violence, and chaos; family isolation; family financial strain; lack of structure and appropriate discipline; child maltreatment; entering foster care, running away, or experiencing homelessness; trouble in school; low self-esteem; difficulty with social skills and adaptability; lack of control over the environment; and greater likelihood of future maladjustment
"The good news is that children of alcohol and drug addicted parents can and do recover. Treatment programs and community-based organizations can use specially designed games and activities to help children play their way to health and understanding. During this process they build upon their strengths, deepen their resilience, and further realize their intrinsic beauty and worth."
Structured education and support provides children of addicted parents with the opportunity to understand thatthey're not alone;
it's not their fault; they deserve help, and there is help for them; their feelings are OK, and they can share them with safe people; they can help themselves by practicing self-care; there is hope and help to cope; they can try out new approaches to old problems; they can develop good relationship skills.
The Crow Wing County Local Advisory Council (LAC) on Children's Mental Health plans to sponsor a one-day workshop for helping professionals working with children of alcohol and drug-addicted parents. The training will provide information and materials pertinent to helping kids with these issues. The Children's Program Kit, on which the training is based, can be used by social workers, collaborative counselors, correctional staff, chemical health counselors, school-based staff, and in other nonprofit and educational programs. Watch for workshop details in the near future. In the meantime, more information can be found at the Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website at www.samhsa.gov <http://www.samhsa.gov/> , key words: children of substance abusers.
Much of the information for this article is taken from: SAMHSA Children's Program Kit: Supportive Education for Children of Addicted Parents. DHHS Pub. No. (SMA) 03-3825. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2002.
This article was submitted by Holly Biggins, Northern Pines Mental Health Center, on behalf of the Crow Wing County Local Advisory Council on Children's Mental Health.
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