According to a 2012 report published in HealthDay, many teens and children live with a parent who is abusing drugs or alcohol. In fact, researchers say that in many homes, there is a caregiver who has an addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are approximately 7.5 million children and teens under the age of 18 who live with a parent who is struggling with alcohol abuse.
As you can imagine, the addiction of a parent can make a significant impact on the development of children and teens. In fact, over the years, experts have recognized patterns of development that occur within a family that includes addiction. For instance, certain roles develop among the children and the non-abusing parent. These patterns include powerlessness, enabling, caretaking, low self-worth, controlling, denial, poor communication, weak boundaries, anger, and lack of trust. In addition to having to overcome these dysfunctional patterns, teens and children who grow up in a home with addiction are likely to have relationship problems later in life. They might also be vulnerable to addiction as well as to mental illness.
Furthermore, families in which there is substance abuse are more likely to experience abuse or are at a higher risk of abuse. Families that have members who abuse either drugs or alcohol are more likely to also have a history of either physical or sexual abuse. The Child Welfare League of America (2001) recently found that substance abuse is present in 40-80 percent of families in which children are victims.
Now this doesn’t mean that you’re going to grow up and abuse your children. And it doesn’t mean that there is abuse in your family now. However, the relationship between abuse and addiction in families point to problems that can arise when there is addiction in a family. And you might have noticed that there are unhealthy patterns in your own family if one of your parents struggles with an addiction.
If you’d like to get help for yourself for your emotional and psychological well being, here are suggestions to consider:
Work with a therapist. You might have an adult you trust (the non-abusing parent, a teacher, or school counselor) look for a therapist that specializes in addiction and families.
Attend A-Anon meetings. These are 12-step meetings for the family members of those who struggle with addiction. In fact, you might be able to find a teen Al-Anon group in your neighborhood.
Participate in group therapy with other teens whose parents are addicts. Because approximately 10.5% of children and teens in America live with an addicted parent, you’re likely not the only teen who faces that challenge. A support group is like one-on-one therapy with a psychologist or therapist but you’re with others who are going through the same challenges. Support groups can help you feel like you’re not alone, give you feelings of hope and strength, and give you a community of other teens to rely on when you need it.
If you’re a teen struggling emotionally, psychologically, or academically because of an addicted parent, ask for help from an adult you trust! You don’t have to struggle alone!