How Parental Substance Abuse Affects Child Development

by | Sep 15, 2023 | Parenting | 0 comments

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Although news about it doesn’t reach the mainstream media as much, parental substance abuse is prevalent today, putting children at risk.

At least 25% of children suffer from debilitating consequences of their families’ alcohol abuse, with an estimated 8.3 million living with at least one substance-dependent parent.

These figures show a glimpse of the consequential hold of substance abuse on children’s development and familial relations. Parents are the primary providers of unconditional love and support. But when they fail to provide such tenderness, they often resort to the wrong choices. Life crumbles before them to the point where they’re unable to pick themselves back up, and their children bear witness to their mess and damaging vulnerabilities.

When this happens, what impact do children receive?

Children Bearing Parental Substance Abuse

In July In August, a book by Maryjo Paradis-Smith, readers are captivated by the tangled and complex life of July Krativitiz, a 12-year-old dealing with her mother’s parental substance abuse. Bearing the latter’s crippling opioid addiction, July lives her childhood in darkness with her mother’s issues in tow. Compared to the other children, who would’ve been frolicking under the sun and enjoying the warmth of their parents’ love, July had to care for her mother and experience the effects of addiction.

At 12 years old, she had to step into her mother’s shoes as the latter stepped on hers – a swapping of responsibilities despite the massive age and supposed authority difference.

July’s experience is among the many possible narratives children of parental substance abuse go through. It’s a detailed report of how families and relationships crumble and are deconstructed by the influence of addiction. It’s an example of how cruel it is for children to bear all the burden of their parents’ uncontrolled pleasure-seeking, the abuse as opposed to the love they should give.

With their lack of physical and emotional maturity, carrying such a burden and responsibility is nothing short of cruelty. It’s allowing children to break into their providers’ arms, an inhuman act of instability and maltreatment to those who should be treasured and protected. What’s worse is that as they’re lost in their pleasure, parents suffering from parental substance abuse won’t even recognize the consequences of their actions. Abuse transgresses from a personal issue toward one influencing the individual’s immediate family, putting them at risk for impeded developmental progress.

The Blow Children Receive

Parents become parents not only because they’ve given birth to their children. Instead, they become one for the responsibilities and affection they can provide. A loving environment and tender hands are what they’re expected to provide. But with parental substance abuse in the picture, these turn to neglect and possible physical and mental abuse. With logic clouded by the substance, parents’ mental capacity becomes impaired, allowing them to look past their children’s needs.

Children may suffer from countless different blows provided by their parents’ vices. From strained relationships to inadequate resources due to financial difficulties, families suffer from one’s wrong decision. Regardless, it’s impossible to deny that children generally suffer the most.

One in eight children has to bear the burden of living with a parental figure suffering from substance abuse. Whether they’re an only child or with siblings to console each other, they commonly grow up feeling isolated and repressed. One wrong move and their parents can have a meltdown. Their life consists of tiptoeing around their parents walking on eggshells with them around. Hence, instead of blooming into expressive and functional adults, they cower into their shells with the unnecessary need to communicate their needs and demands.

They get used to an unpredictable environment, and when they grow up, their instincts are stuck in survival mode. Children forget to open themselves to receiving emotional support and are always on edge with the slightest behavioral changes from those around them.

Addiction Hurts Everywhere. Be Wary of Your Decisions

When things become overwhelming, be careful of where you choose to put your mind into. A coping mechanism, pleasure-seeking, and a means of escapism can quickly turn into addiction. Every choice matters because every behavior can influence your littles, their future, and their relationship with you. Hence, take a step back and look at the bigger picture:

Is the substance you’re consuming worth more than your children?


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