Before it slips my mind, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics is honoring children of alcoholics the week of Feb. 10-16. We see the adults who are recovering from their alcohol addiction, but we sometimes need to ask, "What about the children?"
One in four children in the United States under the age of 18 is impacted by a family member who abuses alcohol or has alcohol dependence. Crucial brain and social/emotional development are often altered or impeded by the toxic, chaotic environment created when a parent uses alcohol.
Results of this environment are:
(1) the parent is less attentive to the child while drunk.
(2) the parent may be unable to fulfill their role as a parent.
(3) the parent is more likely to be diagnosed with a psychological problem.
(4) the parent may be chronically physically ill from using alcohol.
(5) the parent spends time getting, using and recovering from alcohol instead of parenting.
(6) the parent places the family in a financially unfit position.
What about the children? They will lack consistency, stability and emotional support due to the environment in which they live. They may be physically and emotionally traumatized by verbal and/or physical abuse by an out of control drunk parent. They may feel abandoned and neglected and are more likely to experience higher absenteeism from school. Depression and suicide attempts in adolescents are higher for children of alcoholics. Finally, children of alcoholics are watching for signs of use of alcohol; that is, they're waiting for "the other shoe to drop."
Two messages need to be conveyed to children of alcoholics, the first of which is teaching them the 7 C's: I didn't cause it. I can't cure it. I can't control it. I can help take better care of myself by communicating my feelings, making healthy choices for me, and by celebrating myself. The second message is that they are not alone, it's not their fault, it's OK to feel their feelings, they deserve help and it's important to talk to someone with whom they feel safe.
The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties is committed to sharing information and resources for better mental health and the prevention of substance abuse. If you would like more information, please call the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties at (419) 448-0640. The board's office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.