How Does Parental Drug Abuse Affect Children

Posted on January 20th, 2012

There are no perfect parents. Even conscientious parents who seek to create the best possible home environment will make mistakes along the way and those mistakes will impact their children, just as they were influenced by their own parents. Does this mean that kids who grow up in a home where one or both parents abuse alcohol or drugs are doomed to suffer and repeat the mistakes in their own lives? Thankfully not. It is always possible to break negative cycles. Nevertheless, living in a home with a parent who abuses substances does create problems of which everyone should be aware.

Drug/Alcohol Abuse Leads to Chaos in the Home

When even one parent in the home is abusing alcohol or drugs, the home is significantly more likely to exist in a state of uncertainty and even chaos. The orderliness and predictability that should make home a safe environment are often sacrificed to the parent’s addiction. Parents who abuse substances often experience severe mood swings leaving children to be unsure as to how mom or dad will be feeling/reacting on any given day. Household rules may be non-existent because the parent(s) simply is not dependable enough to set them up and uphold them. This state of uncertainty creates a deep sense of insecurity for children.

Kids Take Responsibility in More Ways Than One

Not only are expectations unclear and inconsistent, the lack of structure often means that children are left to take on greater self-reliance. Children may be responsible for keeping the house picked up, preparing their own meals and caring for their younger brothers and sisters. Sadly, addicted parents often blame their children for their own problem saying that if only the kids would stop fighting among themselves, do better in school or keep the house clean they would not be driven to drink or take drugs. Unfortunately, children are only too willing to accept responsibility for the addiction of their parents.

Negative Emotional Impact is a Reality

Even while kids join parents in blaming themselves for the family’s turmoil, they also harbor deep resentment that their parent(s) are not willing to overcome their problem out of love for their children. The double-edged sword of self-blame and anger against parents strikes deep. On top of all the rest, children of substance abusing parents are often left alone for extended periods of time leading children to feel rejected and unimportant. Not surprisingly, children who grow up in such homes are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and difficulty in forming adult relationships.

Thankfully, Most Overcome

While the child who grows up in a home with a substance abusing parent experiences a range of negative impacts, it is not necessarily the case that he/she will abuse substances nor wind up with a gloomy future. It is always possible to break negative cycles. In fact, according to groups like Children of Alcoholics (COA) and Children of Substance Abusers (COSA), 75 percent of children form such homes do not abuse drugs or alcohol themselves and through sheer determination manage to overcome the deficiencies of their home life.

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