5 Ways to Help Children of Parents with Substance Use Disorder

5 Ways to Help Children of Parents with Substance Use Disorder

Children are one of the most precious gifts we have on earth. They are pure, innocent, full of life and they love to learn.  As parents or guardians, you have a powerful role in their development as they grow from child into adult.  Children look up to adults and they learn behaviors, responses, and everyday life from watching and observing what they do. They ask questions in search of answers, so they can eventually become independent and do things on their own.

But, did you know that approximately one in every five children live in a home where a parent has a substance use disorder?

Did you also know that a child growing up in a home where a parent has a substance use disorder is also more likely to have a similar experience when they become an adult?

With about twenty percent of children encountering these difficult situations in their lives, it’s imperative that other adults aide in the support process.

Below are FIVE ways you can be there to support the child(ren) in your life who likely need(s) it the most: 

1.  Be A Positive Support System 

One of the most valuable things we can do when interacting with a child who has a parent with a substance abuse disorder is to be a positive support system for them. When we talk about being this type of support system, we are not looking to ask questions and dig deep into the situation, but rather allow the child free reign to talk with us, or simply come to us when they need support.

When engaging in discussion, discuss alternative topics with the child, such as what their favorite sport is, or who their favorite super hero is.  When you discuss more welcoming topics with the child, they will be more open with you and willing to engage.

The most important thing you can bring to this child’s life is your support. Spending valuable time with them and being an ear to listen can go a long way in helping a child in this type of situation.

2.  Build Trust

Trust is a very powerful thing. When it comes to children, it is very valuable to them when they are initially developing relationships. If you are working with a child of a parent with substance abuse, honesty is one of the most beneficial supports you can offer in the trust building process. In some instances, trust is difficult for the child, so it is imperative to build trust through the conversations you have. A child should know that they are not alone in this situation and you are there to provide them with never-ending support.

3.  Be Sensitive and Reassuring

Children in this situation can have the feeling of, “It’s my fault.” As a support system, we should be reassuring the child that it is not their fault.  If you have already established trust with the child, as we stated above, now you can begin to reassure them that it is okay to talk about their situation with you. Remain sensitive to the situation though and be an active listener.  Sometimes a child just needs to get their thoughts off of their chest without feeling like they’re being judged.

4.  Provide Reminders

In this type of situation, a child may also internalize self-doubt. They may begin questioning if their parents love them, or if they played a role in the substance use disorder.  Remind the child that they are loved and try to separate the behavior from the adult.  Let the child know that it is okay to not agree with the action or behavior, but still love the person.

5.  Let Childlike Behaviors Happen

First and foremost, a child needs and deserves to be a child.  When a child is growing up in a home with a parent who has a substance abuse disorder, that child may take on additional roles similar to what the adult would, or should, be doing.  So, when we get a chance to work with the child outside of the home, that is exactly what we need to let them be … a child. Encouraging the child to let loose and have fun could provide a great sense of relief for them.

Using these five strategies when working with a child of a parent with substance use disorder can go a long way for their positive future!

At Our Turning Point, we are here to help! So, if you have any questions on substance abuse or how to help a child of a parent with substance use disorder, Contact Us, and we will be more than happy to support you, or that child in any way we can.