Entries tagged with “family support”.


How to help a parent who struggles with addictionWatching a loved one battle addiction is never easy, but having a parent who struggles with substance abuse presents unique challenges. You must balance the desire to see your father or mother get help with the need to address how parental addiction has affected your own mental health.

Recognizing the Signs of Parental Addiction

In many families, addiction is a secret that everyone knows and nobody acknowledges. Children grow up knowing that their parent abuses drugs or alcohol, but not fully understanding how to change the situation.

However, it’s possible for an addiction to develop so gradually that you might not realize there is a problem right away. In cases where an adult child is concerned about an elderly parent’s recent changes in behavior, retirement, illness, or the death of a loved one may serve as a trigger event for substance abuse.

If you’re worried about a parent’s alcohol or drug use, here are some warning signs to watch for:

  • Slurred or difficult to understand speech
  • Angry outbursts
  • Difficulty remembering conversations or details about important family events
  • Confusion
  • Glazed eyes
  • Pupils that seem unusually small or unusually large
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Unexplained financial problems
  • Lying about daily activities or habits
  • Change in activity levels, such as excessive energy or extreme exhaustion
  • Disheveled or unkempt personal appearance

Note that in cases where seniors are drinking to excess or abusing prescription medication, the warning signs of addiction are often mistaken for age-related cognitive decline or the early signs of dementia. Since addiction is often mistakenly seen as a younger person’s problem, it’s somewhat easier for seniors to hide the signs of drug and alcohol abuse from the casual observer.

Getting Help

If you’re worried about a parent’s substance abuse, discussing your concerns with other family members is a good place to start. You may find that your siblings or your other parent have similar concerns, but were too afraid to speak up until you began the conversation. Joining together to discuss the problem in a calm, rational way will help you decide how to best proceed.

Planning an intervention can be an effective way to convince your parent to seek treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. An intervention is a meeting led by concerned family members and friends. The meeting begins by having everyone share examples of behavior that they’ve witnessed and how these actions have negatively affected them. Then, the group presents a prearranged addiction treatment plan and the consequences for refusing to accept treatment. After listening to everyone speak, the addicted person is then asked to make an immediate decision about seeking treatment. If the addicted person refuses to accept treatment, the intervention team must be prepared to follow through on the consequences—which may include limiting contact or refusing to provide financial assistance.

Some key points to remember when talking to a parent about his or her addiction include:

  • Try to avoid using the word “addict” since older people are more likely to view substance abuse as a moral failing instead of a chronic illness.
  • Be supportive and compassionate by taking about happy memories you have with your parent. Stress that your concern is coming from a place of love.
  • Don’t bring up topics that are unrelated to your parent’s substance abuse. Keep your focus on the need to get your parent into addiction treatment.

If you believe that your parent may become violent if confronted about his or her substance abuse, do not try to have an intervention without the assistance of a mental health professional. Ensuring the safety of everyone in your family should be your top priority.

Taking Care of Your Own Needs

Having a parent who struggles with addiction is a traumatic experience due to the role reversal it involves. Normally, your parent is the one to care for you, guide you, and teach you how to prepare for the future. When addiction forces you to become your parent’s caretaker, feelings of confusion, anger, shame, and betrayal can result.

Seeking counseling can help you learn to deal with your feelings surrounding your parent’s addiction in a constructive manner. Support groups such as Al-Anon or Al-Ateen may also be useful in helping you to better understand the challenges associated with your situation.

Finally, you may find it useful to remember the 7 Cs of addiction as taught by the National Association for Children of Alcoholics:

I didn’t cause it.
I can’t cure it.
I can’t control it.
I can care for myself
By communicating my feelings,
Making healthy choices, and
By celebrating myself.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

Related articles:

 


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Talking to kids about a parent's addictionTalking to kids about a parent’s substance abuse problem isn’t easy, but this is a conversation you simply can’t ignore. Brushing the topic aside gives children the message that addiction is a shameful family secret. Instead, plan to discuss a parent’s decision to seek treatment in an age-appropriate manner—setting the stage for open and honest communication.

Teaching the 7 C’s of Addiction

According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, the 7 C’s of addiction can serve as a useful framework for helping children understand a parent’s substance abuse problem and how it affects their own lives.

I didn’t cause it.
I can’t cure it.
I can’t control it.
I can care for myself
By communicating my feelings,
Making healthy choices, and
By celebrating myself.

After you’ve talked to your child, consider sharing a copy of the 7 C’s of addiction. Your child may wish to display a copy of this information in his or her bedroom or to carry it in a wallet or backpack as a reminder of how to handle conflicting feelings surrounding a parent’s substance abuse treatment.

Explaining Addiction to Kids Under 10

At this age, children still live in a me-centered world. This means they’re likely to blame themselves for a parent’s addiction-related behavior. Your task is help your child understand that their mother or father’s addiction is not their fault and to reassure them of your family’s love and commitment to each other.

You can begin the conversation by bringing up an example of behavior that your child witnessed, such as an argument occurring after your spouse missed your child’s school play to go out drinking with friends. Explain that addiction is a disease that causes people to make bad choices, even when they know those bad choices hurt themselves or others. Stress that the parent in treatment is getting help for his or her illness, much like you would take your child to the doctor for a high fever or a bad cut.

Talking to Tweens

Tweens are at the stage of their lives where they’re attuned to rumors and gossip. When you talk to your tween about a parent’s addiction, your goal should be to make sure he or she has all the facts.

Plan to talk to your tween in a calm, quiet location that’s free of distractions. State the facts simply, saying that the parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol and is seeking treatment for this illness. Give your tween ample opportunity to ask questions, answering as truthfully as you are able to. Stress the importance of coming to together as family during this time and invite your tween to come to you whenever he or she is feeling sad or angry about the situation.

Talking to Teens

Teens often have a different perspective on addiction than younger children. They may be resentful for having to handle household chores and care for younger siblings when a parent is under the influence. They may also be jealous of friends who they view as having “perfect” families.

When you’re talking to your teen, express your appreciation for all your teen has done to help the family during this time and acknowledge the impact this experience has had on his or her life. You can point out that all families have their own struggles, but avoid taking a condescending or dismissive tone. Teens will often shut down if they feel they’re not being respected as part of the conversation.

After your teen has had a chance to process the initial discussion, you should broach the subject of what a family history of addiction means. While genetics aren’t destiny, studies have shown that having a parent or other close relative who suffers from addiction does increase a teen’s risk of developing a substance abuse problem. Stress your concern for your teen’s wellbeing and help him or her explore interests and hobbies that can will reduce the urge to experiment with drugs and alcohol.

Seeking Help for Your Child

The experience of living with a parent’s addiction can cause some children to act out. If you notice that your child is experiencing signs of depression or anxiety, such as changes in appetite, sleeping patterns, academic performance, and time spent with friends, he or she may be in need of counseling to help process the feelings associated with a parent in treatment. Your pediatrician can refer you to a qualified therapist in your area. Attending Ala-teen or a related support group for children in similar situations may also be beneficial.

By Dana Hinders

Related articles:


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. This observance, sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), stresses the need for education regarding alcoholism and addiction recovery.

At St. Joseph Institute, we stand together with NCADD to encourage an open and honest conversation about the risks associated with underage drinking. In this post, we’ll outline six tips for talking to your teen about alcohol use.

1. Begin the Conversation as Early as Possible

It’s best to begin talking to your children about alcohol use in the upper elementary grades. Statistic indicate that about one-third of young people have begun experimenting with alcohol by the end of eighth grade, with boys reporting their first drink at 11 and girls reporting their first drink at 13. This is troubling because children who start drinking before 15 are five times more likely to abuse alcohol later in life than those who begin drinking after 21.

Of course, it’s never too late to start discussing the risks of underage drinking. Older teens still need your guidance as they navigate the challenge of becoming independent young adults.

2. Promote Positive Relationships

Friendships play an important role in helping kids develop their own unique sense of self. Making an effort to get to know your child’s friends can help ensure that these relationships stay positive. Encourage your teen to invite friends over to your home regularly—using snacks, movies, video games, and music to create a welcoming atmosphere.

It’s also important to maintain contract with the parents of your teen’s friends and establish that they share your values in regards to underage drinking. Do not allow your teen to attend parties where there will be no adult supervision or to spend time at homes where alcohol is readily accessible to minors.

3. Encourage Extracurricular Activities

Kids who are involved in sports, music, drama, and other extracurricular activities are better equipped to resist the pressure to drink because they’ve seen firsthand that alcohol isn’t necessary to have a good time. If your child is struggling to find a suitable activity at school, consider searching for volunteer opportunities in the community, such as working at an animal shelter or the public library.

Getting a part-time job may also be an option for older teens. Work experience teaches time management skills, teamwork, and responsibility. All of these attributes will help your teen make wise decisions in the years to come.

4. Stress the Risks

Pop culture often portrays drinking as a harmless way to relax and have fun. Talking to your teen about the darker side of alcohol use helps put the issue in perspective, especially if you can provide context in regards to portrayals of underage drinking in your child’s favorite movie or television show.

NCADD has a fact sheet with underage drinking statistics that can provide a starting point for discussing the risk of making poor decisions while intoxicated. Risks for teens include getting into fights, having unprotected sex, suffering from alcohol poisoning, or being involved in an auto accident.

5. Be Honest About Your Own History

If you’ve struggled with alcoholism or you’ve seen the consequences of a family member’s drinking problem firsthand, don’t be afraid to share this story with your teen. You don’t need to provide every intimate detail, but these personal stories are often a highly effective way of getting a teen to recognize the dangers associated with alcohol use.

It’s also important for your teen to know that having a family history of alcoholism puts him or her at a higher risk of developing similar problems. Genetics isn’t destiny, but abstaining from underage drinking is the best way for your teen to stay safe.

6. Know the Warning Signs

Drastic changes in academic performance, decreased personal hygiene, neglecting responsibilities at home, and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities are some of the signs that suggest your teen may have a drinking problem. Depression, mood swings, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating are also cause for concern.

If your teen has already been experimenting with alcohol, encourage him or her to take the self-test for teenagers on the NCADD website. This simple questionnaire evaluates a teen’s risk factors for problem drinking, providing you with a baseline to determine if further services are needed.


Print pagePDF pageEmail page