It is tempting to think of addiction as something that only affects individuals, but substance use disorders have a wide-ranging impact. This is especially true when someone with an addiction has children in their care. Recent data estimates that 1 in 5 children live in a home with an addicted parent. Call Georgia Addiction Treatment Center at 855.952.3546 to learn more about how addiction affects children and our family counseling program to address addiction.
How Addiction Affects Children
Harvard University released a study not too long ago that found children with addicted parents are three times more likely to experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. They’re also four times more likely to experience neglect than their peers.
Abuse or neglect can result in developmental delays in children. These can be physical in cases where parents fail to get their children the necessary healthcare as they grow. The impacts can also be mental and psychological, potentially resulting in a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression.
- Other ways that addiction impacts children include:
- Creating an unstable, unsafe living environment
- Resulting in children blaming themselves for family issues related to a parent’s addiction
- Causing children to act out or develop behavioral issues, often in response to abuse or neglect
In addition, many children who live with a parent with a substance use disorder believe that substance use is normal. Therefore, they’re at a higher risk of becoming addicted to substances in the future. Another layer to the way addiction affects children is genetics. Much argument has taken place over the nature vs. nurture debate. Regarding addiction, it is more accurate to say nature and nurture since both play a role in addiction. The previous section covered aspects of how children are affected by parental addiction from the nurture perspective. Those elements are related to a child’s treatment and environment.
But genetics plays a role too. Parental addiction means children are inheriting genes that likely leave them more predisposed to developing an addiction. Research indicates that genes account for up to half of someone’s risk of having an addiction at some point in life.
Benefits of Family Counseling
Family counseling is a common component of addiction recovery when affected children are involved. This is because it is not just the addicted person who needs to heal. Children who have witnessed or felt the impact of addiction also have healing to do.
Family counseling involves four critical aspects:
- Family engagement: this means ensuring each family member is involved in the therapy and able to bring their whole selves to the process.
- Relational reframing: this piece refers to how it can be helpful to reframe interventions to address core relational issues and hurts that have resulted from an addiction. The point is to draw attention away from individuals and toward the relationships that the addiction has damaged.
- Family behavior change: as its name implies, the point here is to change the actual behavior of family members in ways that support recovery and reduce harm. It could involve coaching through new skills or strategies for the addicted person and other family members.
- Family restructuring: this final element is aimed at fundamentally changing a family’s beliefs, motives, and rules.
Depending on the severity and length of addiction, children might also benefit from individual therapy sessions that go beyond group sessions. Through everything, the physical and psychological safety of children should be prioritized. That may mean group sessions are not feasible at first if the addicted parent has been abusive or neglectful.
Contact Georgia Addiction Treatment Center
Due to how addiction has a widespread impact, addiction recovery can also impact more than just the individual in recovery. It can transform an entire family. Ignoring how addiction affects children will likely lead to cycles of addiction and abuse for those children as they grow up and develop.
Healing is possible for addicted parents and children who are suffering as a result. Georgia Addiction Treatment Center is committed to your family’s health and wholeness. Our family counseling can play a key role in healing the damage caused by addiction. Call our team today at 855.952.3546 to start your family’s journey toward freedom from addiction.