Nearly 30 million Americans struggle with substance abuse or alcoholism. Addiction exacts a heavy price on families, including children who suffer many traumatic effects which may be physical or psychological in nature, oftentimes both. The neglect and mistreatment of children with caregivers who struggle with addiction are at a greater risk for negative influences later including addiction later in life.
According to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the mistreatment of children is defined as any act or failure to act on the part of a caregiver which results in death, serious physical, emotional harm, exploitation or puts the child in harm’s way. Exposing children to dangerous and illegal substances can be considered maltreatment on its own, however, abuse and neglect occur in many ways including:
- Verbal abuse or violence from a caregiver who is high or drunk
- Sexual abuse or behavior which makes a child feel uncomfortable
- Forcing a child to hide adult’s drug abuse or alcoholism
- Consistently leaving a child alone at home
- Ignoring a child’s daily needs and need for attention
Long Term Effects of Exposure
The long-term effects of addiction on children is devastating, but only recently have the repercussions been noticed. Individuals who are incarcerated admit at a higher rate than the average population to having been exposed to drugs and alcohol in the home at a young age. Neglect, physical and sexual abuse seemed the norm for many of the individuals in jail or prison. Some individuals in the family were also incarcerated as a result of various issues surrounding drugs and alcohol which lent itself to being a negative environment for a young person to grow up around. The cycle seems to repeat itself creating an imprint in children born into homes where abuse and addiction are rampant. Children are caught up in the chaos with lots of challenges to face.
Breaking the Cycle
One of the most important factors to consider when understanding how to help children in a home with addicted parents is to break the cycle as soon as possible. Many youth who enter drug or alcohol abuse paths do so largely in part because of exposure to it early on at home. Young adults can be malleable with the right support services including:
- Safe environments with supportive care for children without capable caregivers
- After school, mentor and similar programs help break the cycle by providing positive, nurturing adults in place of caregivers even just a few hours a week
- Drug and alcohol abuse education in schools support preventative education at home which can be effective in keeping kids off drugs
- Noticing the signs and offering a better pathway through community outreach programs that center around the whole family
Children are the most vulnerable in homes where alcohol and drugs are used. Providing safe spaces to engage with a drug-free environment and people is a great way to assist children in building resistance against addiction.
Hired Power provides information and supportive services to individuals and families in need of help with addiction. The power of addiction affects the entire family. Call us to find out how we can help you break the cycle.