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Substance Abuse Affects the Entire Family

Helping children of parents with substance abuse disorders is part of helping everyone heal.

Mental health and substance abuse struggles are common everywhere. It doesn't matter how rich or poor you are or where you live. We often hear from the media about consequences of these struggles and what children can expect in their futures. But, what we don’t hear enough of is the recovery and resiliency of children.

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Please note, the information in this post is not a replacement for personal medical advice.

Substance Abuse Disorders (SUDs) are no different than any other mental health diagnosis. Unfortunately, children are often affected when a parent struggles with alcohol or drug abuse.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMSA) found that one in eight children live or have lived in a household with one or more parent who struggles with a SUD. So, what do we know?

Children impacted by their parents’ substance abuse disorders often have trouble with healthy communication, and feeling connected to other people. and managing finances. In many cases, the substance abuse also leads to (or increases) family conflict, abuse, and/or violence. Children may also experience long lasting affects that can make it difficult to find trusting relationships. They also feel overly responsible for other people’s emotions and take on adult roles in the family. Children and teens have an increased risk for depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorders, negative behaviors, and anger.

There is Hope and Help

Families are a team. On a basketball team, if one player is injured, other team members will step up and fill the role of the injured player. In a family, if one person is struggling, others will step into the role that has been abandoned. An example might be a 13-year-old big sister becoming the mother figure to her younger siblings. She feeds, clothes, and provide emotional support for her little sister and brother — just like their mom would if she was healthy. But, who takes care of the 13-year-old?

Fortunately, there are many community resources available to support the whole family. Laura Lander, Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry at West Virginia University – School of Medicine, suggests that substance abuse treatment is essential not only for the parent with the disorder, but also for the whole family (spouse, children, grandparents). Often, in recovery family members play and important role in several parts of the treatment plan.

Below, I have provided a few of the many resources available in our local community to help families coping with substance abuse disorders. Help is available.

Family and Individual Therapy

Covenant Family Solutions has a team of therapists, mental health nurse practitioners, and behavioral health intervention staff to help. Our team helps families gain strength through wellness. Services are available to adults, children, couples, and families to assist with all areas of mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Treatment Facilities

Heart of Iowa is managed by the Area Substance Abuse Council (ASAC). This is a group treatment center where mothers and their children are able to stay together throughout mom’s treatment. Often children receive mental healthcare during the stay as well. Additionally, ASAC has inpatient and outpatient individual substance abuse recovery centers.

Support Programs for Children and Teens

Boys and Girls Club provides before and after school programming for children ages 5 to 18. These programs include mentoring, sports, and various education and career development activities. All Boys and Girls Club programs support children in social and emotional areas.

You are Not Alone

Mental health and substance abuse struggles are common everywhere. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are or where you live. We often hear from the media about consequences of these struggles and what children can expect in their futures. But, what we don’t hear enough of is the recovery and resiliency of children.

With the right tools, support and guidance, children can heal and thrive. We can all also do our part to help prevent substance abuse disorders by supporting children and each other within our communities.

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