Few mental health disorders can disrupt a family more than substance use and addiction. Addiction can pose severe consequences within family dynamics, causing immediate and prolonged impacts with those who are within close proximity to the issue. In specific, children whose parents are battling with substance abuse may suffer the long-term effects of drugs and alcohol. They are likely to see changes in personality, behavior, and lifestyles. What happens when my child’s father is an addict and, more importantly, what can you do?
Given that alcohol is the nation’s third-leading cause of preventable death and considering the opioid epidemic resulted in 49,860 deaths in 2019, addiction is a public health issue that definitely impacts children. Drug abuse can cause short- and long-term damage both from the individual using, as well as for the family members that bear witness to it.
If your child’s father is suffering from addiction, finding answers is a major first step in protecting your children from catastrophic damage caused by alcohol and drugs. For information and recovery options available, contact us directly 24/7 at 855-281-5588.
What Are the Impacts of a Parent Struggling with Addiction?
There are several concerns that arise from having a parent that struggles with addiction. For one, households where alcohol and drugs are present can be dangerous. Sadly, trends in substance abuse among parents are increasing rapidly. According to data collected by the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, about 18.5% of cases where a child was removed from a home, alcohol or drugs were a factor. By 2019, the rate of such cases rose to nearly 39%.
According to Psychology Today, about one in five children grow up in a home where at least one parent abuses alcohol or drugs.
Different substances can impact everyone differently, but addiction often creates distinct long-term effects in children. Being aware that my child’s father is an addict may reveal more questions than answers. Questions can range from:
- What are the signs of addiction?
- How do you help someone with a drug or alcohol problem?
- How do you protect children from short- and long-term effects?
Substance abuse is a serious issue and addiction is proven to have negative effects on a child’s health, safety, and well-being.
What Are Common Problems that Occur for Children of Addiction?
Many problems for children of addiction often occur in multiple areas of life. The impact of addiction can cause short-term and long-term problems.
Common short-term problems for children of addiction include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Decreased appetite
- Lower academic performance
- Increased stress
- Increase in age-inappropriate responsibilities
Common long-term problems for children of addiction include:
- Lower self-confidence
- Increased depression
- Elevated anxiety
- Higher chance of risky/addictive behaviors
- Relationship problems
More concerningly, children growing up seeing a parent addicted to alcohol or drugs are more likely to develop substance use disorders. They are also three times more likely to be neglected, physically and sexually abused.
Because the long-term health impacts of addiction are severe, witnessing the changes can be distressing and emotionally detrimental. Often, children may not only have developmental and learning disabilities, but they may also be more likely to suffer from prolonged mental and emotional disorders.
How Are Drugs Possibly Impacting Your Children?
Considering the statement, my child’s father is an addict, can elicit a multitude of concerns that may make you feel helpless in navigating parenthood and protecting your children. It’s critical to understand a child’s needs, especially when addiction is a factor in their parents’ life.
A child’s father who is struggling with addiction may be as much as four times as likely to experience neglect than their peers in non-substance abusing homes. Unfortunately, addiction is a debilitating disease and often takes priority, even over critical parenting roles. As a parent begins to lose focus, they may become physically and emotionally unavailable to their children. Often, a cyclical pattern emerges in which guilt and shame from neglect often fuel continued substance abuse.
Children may also be more likely to experience any of the following:
- Angry outbursts
- Anxiety and detachment
When neglect is the norm, a child’s mental and physical wellbeing suffers and the ability to have healthy relationships is, in turn, compromised. Furthermore, a child may be more likely to experience:
- Speech delays
- Cognitive functioning issues
Patterns of substance abuse can actually cause intergenerational issues. The sooner substance abuse is addressed with addiction specialists, the sooner a child can begin healing from these negative effects. If you believe my child’s father is an addict, it’s critical to seek help from experienced professionals who can address addiction and help a person move to long-term recovery.
How Can I Tell if My Parent Struggles with Addiction?
Addiction can be hard to notice, especially when it is a covert type of addiction. Addiction can often be overt (seen) or covert (unseen). Understanding both overt and covert addiction signs is an important step in addressing a potentially damaging lifestyle for both the individual with the addiction and family members.
Common overt signs of a parent with addiction include:
- Alcohol containers around the living space
- Witnessing excessive alcohol or drug use
- Lack of follow-through of responsibilities
- Continuous conversations regarding past, present, or future substance use
- Increased legal, financial, and domestic problems
Common covert signs of a parent with addiction include:
- Increased lying and other manipulative behaviors
- Lack of attendance at important family and individual events
- Sudden abnormal behaviors uncharacteristic of a parent
- Anger outbursts and irritability
- Unable to tend to the needs of self, spouse, and children
Are There Concerns Associated with Different Parent Roles?
The problems associated with both a father and a mother who struggles with addiction are often similar, but there are some gender-specific problems that may occur for children of addiction. A mother struggling with addiction may deal with additional problems due to the importance of attachment from children and their mothers. Women may tend to experience more shame and guilt leading to a higher likelihood of suicidal ideations and self-harm as opposed to men. Fathers may struggle in more violent manners which can often be more visible and detrimental.
Why Are Fathers with Addiction Often More Aggressive?
Both women and men struggling with addiction have similar problems associated with addiction. However, men tend to be more aggressive and violent when dealing with addiction. In fact, the majority of domestic violence cases are due to a male perpetrator both when substance is or is not involved. One reason that this may be is men have increased testosterone levels which can elevate when drugs are involved.
Other factors that cause men to be more aggressive include:
- Higher need for dominance
- Stronger physique
- Increased desire to control
- Less emotional attachment
It’s also important that sober parents understand how to protect their children and take action when a parent is either unable or unwilling to seek treatment. According to the New York State Department of Health, about 31 percent of teenagers actually learn from their parents about the dangers of drug use. Luckily, there are ways to prevent abuse. Actions can include prevention by keeping drugs out a sight or in a place where a child may never access substances. It’s also critical that sober parents maintain efforts to be active if their children’s lives and remain good role models for them, despite a father being unable to meet all parental obligations. Finally, if addiction becomes too problematic, it’s critical that a sober parent create clear boundaries and sets of rules that provide guidance and safety for children who are exposed to drug abuse. Such actions include finding help, interventions, counseling, and also leaving if addiction becomes too much.
How Can AspenRidge Help?
For a parent who may believe my child’s father is an addict, it’s important that the right resources are available to assist with recovery. AspenRidge offers evidence-based programs that are not only geared to address addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders, but that also assist family issues that arise due to ongoing substance abuse. Children are often the most vulnerable to the detrimental effects of drugs, which is why it’s important that addiction is address sooner than later.
AspenRidge Recovery has continued to be a leader in treating co-occurring mental health and substance use throughout Colorado and has multiple locations in Lakewood, Fort Collins, and Lone Tree. AspenRidge offers several different treatment programs to address substance use and mental health concerns.
- Day Partial Hospitalization (PHP)
- Day Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
- AspenRidge REACH Online IOP
- IOP for Professionals and Working Adults
- Outpatient Program
- Alumni & Aftercare Program
Our programs involve counseling and substance abuse support. We have experience helping parents overcome alcohol and drug addiction for successful long-term recovery. For more information contact us directly at 855-281-5588 at any time.