The pantry was nearly empty. Two solitary cans of soup accounted for its remaining contents. The fridge was barren and icy. The kindergartener and toddler sitting on the filthy living room floor had dirty clothes and rumbling stomachs. The five-year-old hadn’t been to school in two days, but that was preferable to last week, when her mom forgot to pick her up. This quiet afternoon was also better than the yelling that happened most nights. With their mom passed out on the couch, at least all was calm for the moment.
This scenario, and others like it, have become all too common in American households. Currently, over 30 million adults in the US struggle with substance abuse. For the families affected, drugs and alcohol direct their days. Childcare drops dangerously low on the priority list as addiction takes over the home. Kids are neglected, abandoned, or abused.
In Harm’s Way
Parents who are in a battle with addiction no longer think clearly. Their realities are altered; their perceptions skewed. Their responsibilities as a parent often take a back seat to getting their next fix.
As they suffer from addiction, their kids suffer, too. Children in these situations often experience abuse or neglect in several forms, whether through lack of attention or supervision to verbal, physical or sexual abuse.
Bearing the Scars
Understandably, it is extremely difficult for children who are raised in these circumstances to overcome them. Many prison cells are filled with inmates who suffered some type of abuse or neglect in their youth.
The examples set by their moms and dads, and the trauma the kids suffered, led them down a path all too similar to their parents’. The statistics are undeniable: children who grow up exposed to parental drug abuse tend to become drug users themselves.
Breaking the Cycle
Of course, this outcome is not inevitable. Parents, children, family members, and the community can take steps to break this cycle of addiction and abuse.
Perhaps one of the most obvious methods to help family beat substance abuse would be by seeking support in a community. Many areas offer children and family centers that provide a safe environment for kids and assistance for parents. It is important to establish and support these efforts.
Appealing to adults and children alike with drug education courses could also be effective. Schools and community programs often offer drug education for youth. This is essential. Kids of all ages must be made aware of the proper use of substances and the danger of abuse. Many are not hearing healthy messages at home, so it’s up to community leaders to deliver the message that could save their lives.
In some cases, it might be necessary to take more drastic measures – interventions. Removing the children from the home might be a necessary – if not temporary – step. Should you intervene if your loved one is addicted? If someone struggling with addiction is no longer able to properly parent, this could be the best thing for the child. Find out more about this process in part two.
Additional Reading: Can They Handle the Truth? How to Admit an Addiction to Your Kids
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