How to help a child whose parent is struggling with addiction

If you have friends who are battling addiction, one of your biggest concerns may well be for their children. It can be heartbreaking to see your friend suffer, but even more so their children as their life is constantly thrown into uncertainty and they aren’t getting the love and support they need.

Of course, as with anyone suffering with alcohol addiction, they need help and getting that help for your friend is a whole article in itself, which needs to be done carefully and considerately.

But what about the children? How can you help them in the best way possible during stages where their parent or parents are suffering from addiction, and during the treatment and recovery process too?

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Firstly, be caring

First and foremost, if you simply show them you care, that can go an awfully long way. It’s not your place to go prying into their business necessarily, but if you offer a shoulder or an ear to a child, they may be encouraged to discuss how they feel.

Engage them with casual conversation, ask them how school was or their plans for the weekend and actively show an interest in them. That will have a positive impact and should they then feel the need to talk to someone, that person may well be you.

It isn’t their fault

If you find that a child or teenager needs to talk about their parents’ addiction or are struggling because of it, then give them assurances that it isn’t their fault. Children can often convince themselves that it is their fault their mother or father have turned to alcohol or drugs, but that is of course far from the truth.

They need to be told that and not to blame themselves.

Understand their behaviour

A knock on effect with children whose parents are suffering from addiction is playing up themselves. That could be in school or in everyday life and it’s often their way of crying out for attention. While their addicted parents may not see that, ask the questions why and be a comfort to them.

Discuss their behaviour in a much more controlled manner and find out what’s wrong and what can be done to improve their behaviour, and ultimately overall happiness.

Help them channel emotions

If their behaviour is becoming an issue, take them off their parents hands for a little while and help them channel those emotions through activities. By keeping them occupied and undertaking hobbies, it can provide a release and improve their mental health.

One of the main problems with addiction is that substance becomes the number one priority, which can leave children feeling ignored. By giving them some attention and allowing them to focus theirs on a sport, hobby or activity, then it can help with their own thoughts and feelings and keep them on the right track too.

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