Children of Addiction Awareness Week: Three Ways to Support Children of Addiction and Their Families
This week (February 12-18, 2023) marks the international Children of Addiction Awareness Week, an initiative to bring attention to the unique needs of the estimated 8.7 million children and youth affected by parental addiction.
Although the effects of addiction are felt by the whole family, the person with the addiction is oftentimes treated individually and independently from their family members. For children living in households with parental addiction, the impact can be lifelong and addressing their needs without considering the family environment has limited effectiveness, as does treating only the individual battling the addiction.
As such, the most effective way to support the needs of children affected by parental addiction is to understand their family environment and find ways to support both the child and the parent struggling with addiction.
Furthermore, by leveraging the right technology, we can bridge the divide between community systems and provide more effective support for children of addiction and their families. This blog post seeks to shed light on three distinct strategies to bolster this cause.
- Understanding the Impact
It is essential to first recognize the significant and lasting impacts of addiction on families. Around 1 in 8 children aged 17 or younger are living in households with at least one parent with a substance use disorder (SUD), representing 12.3 percent of the age group.1
The consequences of addiction can form in various ways and at varying levels of severity. Children of parental addiction are 4x more likely to be emotionally or physically neglected, and 3x more likely to be physically, emotionally, or sexually abused.2 They are at risk of developing a range of emotional, psychological, and social challenges, including an increased likelihood of developing a SUD later in life. The parent battling addiction will experience their own unique challenges as a result of their addiction, such as missing opportunities for healthy attachment.
Understanding the impact of addiction can help in finding the appropriate resources to support children of addiction and their families. Families can then learn how to form healthy attachments, regulate emotions, and find healthy ways of coping with challenges.
- Educating Families on Substance Use Disorders
Community providers, clinicians, and caseworkers can educate families on the disease of addiction and its impact so that they are better prepared to provide support and set boundaries. By understanding addiction, families will increase their awareness of behavioral and emotional patterns and become more comfortable speaking about their experiences. Treatment interventions are also more effective when families understand the disease of addiction, its progression, and the stages of recovery.
For children of parental addiction, education can remove confusion caused by addiction and equip them with the tools and resources they need to move forward. An educational environment also provides a safe and supportive opportunity for children to express their fears and concerns freely.
- Bridging Gaps Between Communities, Providers, and Families
Children of parental addiction are frequently entangled in numerous community systems, including healthcare, child protection, treatment centers, and community-based addiction response programs like Quick Response Teams. With effective collaboration and communication between systems, the safety and wellbeing of these children can be ensured. This coordinated approach allows professionals in the various systems to provide timely and appropriate responses to a child’s needs, avoiding the risk of anything or anyone slipping through the cracks.
Furthermore, close collaboration provides an opportunity for professionals to have knowledge of the resources available throughout the community, such as support groups and other social services.
The use of secure and reliable technology can make information sharing between systems more efficient, facilitating better collaboration. Through a safe and secure exchange of data, the need for back-and-forth contact is eliminated, thus optimizing processes and providing better care coordination.
The addiction crisis in the United States has had a devastating, far-reaching impact on individuals, families, and communities, particularly children living in homes with someone with a substance use disorder. These children are often deprived of the childhood they deserve, and raising awareness and understanding of the impact of addiction can empower much-needed change. To this end, it is essential to fully understand and educate communities on the impact of addiction and bridge the gaps between the relevant systems and services with the help of safe and secure technology. Through these efforts, we can create a better world for children of parental addiction and their families.