top of page

Understanding the Issues of Children with Addicted Parents

The Impact of Parents’ Addictions on Children

From the perspective of healthcare providers, the main focus in treatment is always the patients themselves; in simple words, doctors want to cure the sick, and that’s about it.

Unfortunately, in cases of addiction in which parents are the patients, their children deserve as much attention as they do during the treatment process (and even after their parents recover).

When parents are addicted to controlled substances or display compulsive behaviors, there is no sense of leadership in the family.

addicted families

Parents, who ideally are the backbones of the family, cannot function as they should due to their addictions, and children fall victims to those situations.Addiction may lead to various unfortunate circumstances triggered by the stress level involved with their addiction, the normal lack of communications, their addictive high, financial instability, and total exhaustion.

Addicts have a strong tendency to force their will on others; in this case, parents become too demanding, and their children often have no choice but to fulfill their parents’ unhealthy desires.

Erratic abnormal behaviors added with misplaced emotions make the right recipe for disaster. Addicted parents introduce devastating effects on children’s lives in almost all aspects including education, social, nutritional, and general health.

Bad Environment – Poor Development

Just like factory workers who need a workplace conducive to productivity, children require a stable environment to ensure healthy physical and mental growth and development.

Addicted parents have nearly zero chance of creating a stable environment at home because they have to struggle with their underlying health issues. The level of disengagement between parents and children is high to the point where communication (or conversation) is a rarity.

Children’s activities are less likely supervised, which means the parents have no idea whether their kids are engaged in dangerous situations or are in trouble.

This lack of supervision hinders an ideal learning process in which parents teach children how to behave in accordance to the accepted norms.

Young children who are pretty much dependent on parents for support cannot grow in this kind of environment.

Negligence and Abuse

family in recovery

There is a strong correlation between addicted parents and child abuse or neglect. Children who grow up with parents addicted to controlled substances are much more likely to be neglected and abused than those who grow up without addiction issues.

The logic is simple; psychologically unstable parents cannot control their disappointments, anger, and any form of emotions. Verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse becomes common, and the negligence poses a serious risk to the children’s well-being.

Health Issues

Continuous exposure to parents’ poor behavior as well as abuse and negligence almost always leads to mental and physical health issues, especially in young children.

While physical injuries can heal over time with proper treatment, addicted parents are often too busy thinking about themselves, leaving their children wanting in the case of immediate medical attention.

Mental images associated with parents’ behaviors take even longer to heal, it they can heal at all. These memories are often too traumatic to forget, and children get an entirely incorrect idea of how parents should raise a family.

Kids who grow up with addicted parents are therefore at higher risk of developing mental illnesses in their adolescent years for examples depression and anxiety.

Persistent Behavioral Issues

Dysfunctional family experiences caused by parents addicted to controlled substances may create lasting behavioral issues in children.

Poor parenting and exposure to abuses or negligence will force Child Protective Services or similar agencies to separate kids from abusive parents due to safety concerns.

In an ideal world, the children are put into foster care systems and sent to non-parent caregivers so they can grow in the friendlier more supportive environment.

The situation gets more complicated if the children exhibit persistent behavioral issues rooted in their biological parents’ addictions. Some children – who are quite difficult to manage – are at risk of being bounced from one caregiver to another.

It is a circumstance where children have no sense of security and stability; even worse, the behavioral issues are never properly addressed.

Higher Risk of Addictions

Psychological trauma experienced during childhood from addicted parents and foster care systems is one of the main reasons many people fall into the trap of controlled substances including alcohol and illegal drugs.

In other words, addicted parents create long-term health and social issues in the society. Children exposed to addicts’ behaviors in their families are more inclined to develop similar tendencies as they grow older.

tired addict

It is not difficult to correlate between addicted parents and poor childcare. When parents have addictions to alcohol, drugs, shopping or any other kind of controlled substances and compulsive behaviors, they spend family resources to fulfill the addictions.

Time and money which should be used for the benefits of children are spent for other purposes. Such parents may fail to provide basic care and the necessary attention children need in dealing with school difficulties or social problems.

This trend will continue even after the parents finally have the willingness to stop the bad habits by seeking treatments in rehabilitation facilities.

Excessive Emotional Engagement

The ideal parent-child relationship in a family is built on a basic principle: parents act as caregivers and attend to the children’s needs for food, safety, education, supervision, medical treatments if need be, and counseling.

Emotional and financial supports are crucial to ensure proper growth in a stable environment where children feel protected and safe.

When the relationship involves addiction problems on parents’ parts, these roles are typically reversed.

However, it is only possible when the family has adolescent members old enough to assume responsibilities as caregivers in the sense that they can provide for parents’ basic needs and act (ironically) as the adults instead.

Some of the easiest examples of these young caregivers’ duties are quite obvious: helping a father/mother clean up after an all-night-long of heavy drinking, working a part-time job after school to cover basic expenses, or even taking care of younger brothers and sisters.

While emotional engagement is must-have in the ideal relationship between parents and children, in this case, the level of engagement goes beyond the normal level. The emotional intimacy goes in the wrong direction, for example:

  1. Canceling social or school activities just to be able to stay home to take care of parents

  2. Having to sleep in the same bed with a parent who experiences an episode of extreme anxiety disorder

  3. Hearing the parents tell stories of sexual encounters when they were intoxicated

  4. Being told by the parent to believe that the addiction was the child’s fault

As the child is carrying the burden of family responsibility – which the child is not supposed to be carrying in the first place – there is no time or resources to fulfill personal needs as adolescence, such as social life, good career, leisure time, and independent living separate from parents.

There is also a possibility that the children of addicted parents grow to be addicts as adults. Genetics is the most prominent underlying issue in addiction, but environmental factors play crucial parts too.

This means that although you cannot change children’s genetic vulnerabilities, the natural tendencies to be addicts can be minimized by implementing some improvements in the environment in which they live.

Some children are more resilient than others; they have the willingness and characteristics strong enough to recover unscathed from traumatic events. As for the less resilient ones, they have more or less the same power to deter the influence of addicted parents although they need quite consistent intervention from other adults.

Emotional support, skill building, counseling, and validation from respectable and trusted adult figures become the protective factors to strengthen resilience.

Healthy personal relationship with a sober adult helps promote a good sense of self in children, which encourages them to grow confidence and develop supportive social circles even in times of psychological suffering.

What if the Children Are Addicts?

helping loved one

Young children are much less likely to develop an addiction to controlled substances such as alcohol and drugs, simply because they don’t have the resource to obtain them without helps from adults.

On the other hand, adolescents have a higher risk of addictions to such substances because they have broader access to possible exposures for examples movies, social circles, or even directly from parents; the possibility is higher when they can earn money from part-time jobs.

Common types of addictions in children and adolescents are:

  1. Digital addiction: in times when even children have easy access to technology and modern devices such as smartphones, computers, or gaming consoles, the risk of developing digital addiction is even higher.

Signs of addictions include excessive use of those devices to the point where the children cannot make time to do other activities. Without supervision, the Internet can make things worse as children can access pornographic and gambling websites, which then encourage other forms of addictions.

  1. Tobacco addiction or smoking: one thing that makes smoking habit difficult to tackle is that it appears to be a benign type of addiction. In reality, the long-term effects include life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks and cancers.

  2. Alcohol addition: because many alcoholic beverages are readily available in many places, adolescents don’t seem to have any difficulties obtaining the drinks from convenience stores.

  3. Drug Addiction: With drug addicts, the constant presence of drugs in the house makes it easy for children to find and take drugs.

Adolescents with addiction

Adolescents with addiction problems may be treated in the same way as adults for examples in rehabilitation center – which can be considered a controlled, isolated environment to some extent – to separate patients from any possible circumstances or influences that may trigger the addiction in the first place.

When it comes to children with addictions, however, the treatment must be designed specifically towards young age individuals who still need the companionship of parents or family members around them. Some treatments may include:

  1. Outpatient method: one of the best options to treat children with addiction problems is through an outpatient method. Instead of isolating the children from the outside world (including family), the patients can attend addiction therapy regularly each week with their parents. Children and parents are allowed to go home after each therapy session. Such a treatment method only works when the parents themselves are not addicts.

  2. Inpatient method: the opposite of outpatient method. This treatment program isolates children from all possible negative influences including parents. Many inpatient treatment facilities do not have beds for children and parents, so there is a high risk of emotional distress.

  3. Partial inpatient method: the middle-ground is family-based addiction treatment. It is a rehabilitation center where parents are allowed to visit and stay with their children for a short period on a regular basis. The risk of emotional distress still exists, but not as high as with the inpatient model.

Unfortunately, many addiction treatment facilities are not fully prepared to take young patients. Assuming the parents are also addicts, the foster care system remains the most reliable first step in cutting off the bad influences on children.

As sad as it may seem, separating children from their addicted parents are usually the only way to open the doors to a better future for the kids.

One Nation Overdosed: How Children Cope With A Parent’s Addiction

Ohio teen Victoria Brinkman grew up with a heroin-addicted mother who struggled to take care of her. Now, she wants to spread awareness about drug abuse to help others.

One Nation Overdosed: Utah’s Children At Center Of Opioid Crisis

In Utah, a recent study of umbilical cords showed that nearly five percent of babies born in the state are born addicted to opioids at birth.

Chateau Recovery is dedicated to providing safe and effective treatment for those who are struggling with addiction. We understand the difficulty of recovering from an addiction and how it affects all aspects of life, including relationships, work, and physical and mental health. Our team of experienced practitioners provides an individualized approach that utilizes evidence-based practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and motivational interviewing (MI). Our residential program provides 24-hour support in a safe and comfortable environment, with a focus on helping individuals gain lifelong sobriety. Chateau Recovery is committed to providing the best care possible and supporting our clients throughout their recovery.

about chateau

chateau blog

get in touch

bottom of page