Behavioral Health: Addiction
Dependence on alcohol and drugs is our most serious national public health problem; millions of Americans misuse or are dependent on alcohol and/or drugs. It does not discriminate; no matter what your income level is, where you live, or what ethnicity you are there is a risk of becoming dependent on substances. Addictions tend to worsen over time and affect the entire family, and often children who live in an environment with alcohol or drug addiction need special attention.
It is estimated that one in four children in the United States under the age of 18 is hurt by family alcohol abuse or alcoholism. A significant portion of child abuse and neglect cases are seen in families affected by alcohol, and many times children of alcoholics feel responsible as the cause of the addiction. These kids need to be reassured that it is not their fault and require an outlet to discuss their feelings and experiences. They need to have a reliable adult who they can confide in and who will support and reassure them.
Some of the effects of alcoholism in the family are seen through the child’s behavior. Children of alcoholics tend to have a lower self-esteem, feel alone, helpless or abandoned. More problems may be seen in school such as truancy, dropout rates or general learning difficulties. Alcoholism affects young children, who may exhibit signs of trouble including frequent nightmares, bedwetting or crying.
There are ways to assist children of alcoholics and limit the negative effects. If a child is experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, or signs of depression or anxiety, in a home with alcohol abuse offer them someone to confide in. Assist them in getting the guidance and help they need to be a kid and have fun. There are many resources to help these children through support groups such as Alateen, school guidance counselors, or an AODA counselor.
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