Substance Abuse and Parenting – Emotional Outcome for Children (Part I)
Chronic substance abuse while parenting, while not widely spoken about, is often a very common and burning issue in most modern societies. Among the families where alcohol or drugs are being abused, disorder and uncertainty sets the rules of life for both parents and kids. The behavior of the using parents can range from lovingly supportive to hatefully critical. The children of these parents, who usually do not understand their parent’s capricious behavior, can feel confused. They can also start to think that they did something wrong — making them feel insecure about their future, or even scared of losing their family or home. They can, however, feel all torn up and still also have a pure love for their parents at the same time.
It's difficult to have trust in a relationship with chronic substance abuse. The lack of consistency can lead to mistrust and low self-confidence. Children of these parents are unable to have a good sense of right and wrong, and, therefore, it gets harder for them to build healthy relationships of their own in the future.
Substance-addicted parents are unable to see the negative effects on their children. Good care and a basic standard of living are often unmet. This behavior could cause their own children to start using themselves. Also, children may be afraid to be in public with their parents or experience bullying in schools. In addition, parental using causes feelings of hopelessness. This could lead to low school and extracurricular performance.
To make matters worse, guilt can be a double-sided coin. On one side, the child may feel helpless in providing care to their parents. They may even feel they are the cause of them using. On the other, they may be resentful for being in such a situation. They may have such feelings for years or decades to come.
Last, but not least, verbal abuse may become prevalent. Substance use removes the filter that stops negative and hurtful speech. Exposure to this over a period of time can lead to low self-esteem. It may even lead to anxiety and a negative outlook on life.
“Overall, your want to present yourself to your child as an ally, empathetic to his feelings, and responsive to his needs - even when your needs are conflicting. If your goal is to enlist your child's cooperation in changing his behavior, find ways to be as aligned with his emotionally as possible. By earning your child's trust, you are much more likely to reach him with your point of view than if you approach him in opposition.”
― Hilary Flower