There is no denying that dependencies can create terrible ripples. Not only is the person using in turmoil, so is their network of friends and close family. And undoubtedly, the most tragic victims in that circle are the young children forced to watch a parent spiral out of control. NPR recently addressed this issue, highlighting common traits and solutions for kids going through these experiences. We found their article to be particularly enlightening and worth sharing.
The first portion of the NPR piece addressed the role an outsider could play if they suspect a child is living with addicted parents. This can be a teacher, a neighbor, a coach or what have you. Admittedly, it can be a sticky situation as you may not want to pry into a family’s private business. But if the signs are visible, there are ways to gently see if you can help.
National Association for Children of Addiction representative Mary Beth Collins was interviewed for the NPR article and shared some words of wisdom on how to approach the situation.
“I think that sometimes as adults, we think it’s our job to probe, to ask questions,” she explained. “And that’s absolutely not our job. And oftentimes by doing that, it’s also going to push those children away from you. They’re going to see you as somebody who’s possibly trying to make trouble for them, in fact. Because, again, they have this strong loyalty to their family members.”
Instead, it is recommended to have a casual conversation with kids and teens who may be caught up in an addicted household. Showing consistent care and support for a young person can lead to them to voluntarily open up (particularly if they’re lacking those sorts of roles on the home front).
Another key factor to remember is that these children still care deeply for their parents, regardless of their addictions. The NPR piece recommended separating the person from the behavior when discussing the situation at hand. It is not that the mother or father are bad, it is the dependency that is leading them to make these poor choices.
And of course, one of the critical points to call out when helping a child of addiction is the emphasis that this is not their fault. This can be especially common in younger children, who can tend to blame themselves if a parent gets taken away or even acts abusive. A helpful coping mechanism in this regard comes courtesy of The Betty Ford Center. It is called the Seven C’s and is worth repeating to help soothe sad feelings.
“I didn’t cause it. I can’t control it. I can’t cure it. But I can help take care of myself by communicating my feelings, making healthy choices and celebrating me.”