Parenting While Under the Influence: Seeing The World Through the Eyes of a Child with an Addicted Parent

The absence of a parent who is always gone searching for and using drugs, participating in the lifestyle that comes with addiction can leave the child on their own
There are millions of addicts who are parents.

While in active addiction, your drug of choice dominates importance over other people and responsibilities, including being a parent. This can be devastating for a child. It is common for the child to be neglected, because the addiction dominates the addicted parent’s time. A child may not get sufficient time and attention from the parent that is necessary to build a relationship.

The child may end up feeling like they are not good enough for the parent to quit using. This can lead to lifelong emotional issues for the child. It can hinder their ability to develop healthy relationships in their life in which they feel secure. Their self-confidence may be affected as a result.

The absence of a parent who is always gone searching for and using drugs, participating in the lifestyle that comes with addiction can leave the child on their own. Being alone at home is not only unsafe, but it can damage the child’s mental state. A child may crave attention and feel unwanted, which can lead them to seek out attention from others. This may result in the child seeking love and affection from others that may not be safe people to be around with, such as gangs and criminal groups.

In seeing the parent use and struggle with addiction, they are setting a negative example for the child. Often, children follow the example that the parent is setting for them. Children with addicted parents are at risk for becoming addicted too. This risk escalates when a parent keeps drugs in the home, because they then have access to them.

Sometimes, a child becomes defiant because they lose respect for a parent who is always absent in their lives. When a child becomes old enough to fully understand the reason that the parent is absent, and the reason they behave so selfishly, the child may refuse to have a relationship with the parent at all.

There are also instances in some families with addicted parents that are so severe in which there is a legal intervention which removes the child from the parent’s custody. Though this can be a heartbreaking experience for both the child and the parent, it may be the wakeup call that the parent needs. Often, when the law is involved, the parent must attend a drug rehabilitation program for a certain number of days, and show proof that they are attending 12-step meetings before regaining custody of their children.

When a parent enters recovery, it is like a gift to the child. As recovery progresses, children begin to get their parents back. Though the symptoms of addiction may have destroyed the relationship between parent and child, by entering recovery they are showing their child their willingness to change. Though it may take time to regain the trust and respect that goes along with this type of relationship, through making amends to the child and vowing to live a sober life, the child will eventually begin to respect the parent again and they can rebuild their relationship.

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