Addiction is known as a family illness because of the destruction and chaos it causes for all members of the family and not just the person with the illness. Living with an addict is frustrating and stressful, especially when the individual refuses to accept that he or she has a problem.
Sadly, children of addicts are often profoundly affected, but because they are children, many adults neglect to explain to them what is actually happening. Adults assume that because they are children, they couldn’t possibly understand, so instead of trying to explain the situation, they will tell the children nothing. This is detrimental because many kids experience feelings of guilt and blame when their addicted parent acts in a way they cannot understand.
Explaining Addiction to Children
It’s hard to explain addiction to a child, but it is something that should not be ignored. Children may find it confusing, so it will take time to make them understand that addiction is an illness. It is important that your child realises that this is an illness that can cause their parent to act in a way they are not used to.
Obviously, the age of the child will determine what you do and do not say, but it is vital that the addiction should be talked about regardless. Children need to understand that they are not to blame and they need to be made aware that it is the illness that can cause the adult to behave the way they do. Children will find it hard to comprehend that their addicted parent continues to drink or take drugs knowing that it makes him or her act like this, so they need to be made aware that their addicted parent has no control over his or her actions. Explain that there are many reasons why individuals become addicted to drugs or alcohol and tell the child that their parent needs help.
Explain Addiction to a Child: Don’t Let Them Blame Themselves
Children often blame themselves when their parent is behaving in a destructive manner. They tend to believe that they have done something wrong to cause their parent to become aggressive or violent. They need to learn that it is the illness that causes this behaviour and it is nothing that they have done. Not speaking about the addiction to the child will lead to them having feelings of guilt, fear, anxiety and loneliness. If these feelings are allowed to continue unresolved, the child will experience many problems in later life.
Addicts tend to justify their behaviour and often blame others for their actions. So it is unsurprising that many will tell their children that they are the reason they are drinking. Mums or dads often say to the child that they are drinking because they are stressed out because of the child’s actions. This is just an excuse to drink, but children do not understand this. They will believe what their parent has told them and will blame themselves.
If you are living with an addicted partner and have children in the house, you need to make sure your kids understand that they are not to blame for their addicted parent’s actions. This is a very stressful time in everyone’s lives, but to ensure your children are not psychologically damaged in later life, it is vital that you reassure them that they have done nothing wrong.
Family therapy is also available and is something worth considering. This will help every member of the family to deal with the effects of one member’s addiction and it could prevent the family unit from being damaged beyond repair.
When it comes to addiction, children are often referred to as the forgotten victims. Nevertheless, this should not be the case. They are a part of the family and should be involved as much as possible for their own wellbeing.