Most children are now home from school indefinitely. For the 1 in 8 kids who have a parent with a Substance Use Disorder, this means more time in a potentially volatile environment.
The pandemic is scary and uncertain even for adults. I am 33, and I’m finding that at the very least I have to parent myself. Kids need reassurance and support from the adults in their lives now more than ever. A parent or guardian who is actively using substances is unable to provide that support. It is nearly impossible to focus on another person’s needs when you’re actively tied to a substance.
In fact, instead of providing support, this environment often brings high levels of stress. Parents or guardians who have an active Substance Use Disorder are often unpredictable and inconsistent. Imagine being a kid trying to make sense of a frightening situation, and on top of that not being able to trust your parent’s reaction to your fear. And then imagine you can’t go anywhere else—no school, no playdates.
Unfortunately, millions of kids with a parent who abuses drugs or alcohol may be living a version of this now. Some may have other supports in their life, while others may not. If you have a kid in this situation in your life, you can be that other support.
You might not be able to see the kid in person for the time being, but there are so many ways to connect. We adults are adjusting to new ways of connecting. Kids are often especially adaptable. You can call the kid, video chat, play online games, send them fun games in the mail. If a kid has even one adult in their life who can be a reassuring and stable presence, it can make a big difference.
And it may be important for the kid’s mental health, both now and in the future. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, children of a parent with an Alcohol Use Disorder are four times more likely to later develop one themselves. Kids who have a parent with a Substance Use Disorder show higher rates of Anxiety and Depression.
Whether it’s a pandemic or not, the kid is going to grow up in an inconsistent and potentially even abusive environment unless the parent gets help. If you have a relationship with the kid, you likely have a relationship with the parent. You can’t force anyone into treatment, but as much as you can encourage the parent to seek treatment, it will help the kid. Children often feel powerless to do anything.
When it comes to the virus, staying home is the safest thing we can do. But being stuck at home has had a lot of unintended consequences, making certain populations more vulnerable. Kids stuck in volatile environments are among those groups. Anything we can do to help parents will help kids, too.
If you are or know a parent struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers is open and here for you, with hospital-grade sanitization and telehealth options to make sure you feel safe in treatment. At our facilities across the country, you will build the tools to be present and thrive in long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.