How Do You Help a Child Whose Parents Engage in Substance Use?

The National Institutes of Health noted that roughly 25% of children who are aged eighteen or younger are a part of a family in which at least one family member engages in alcohol use or is dependent on alcohol. This does not account for those children whose parents use substances other than alcohol or those with a serious substance abuse disorder (SUD).

Offer a Safe Haven

If you notice that a child is showing signs such as being afraid to go home or would rather stay at school or be anywhere besides their home, it may be worth looking into their home situation to see if a SUD is present in their parent(s). Most often, it will be a child’s teachers or parents of friends, or neighbors who notice that something isn’t quite right before anyone else will. Whether you fall into these categories or you happen to run into a child who comes to you for help, listen to them. Offer to be a person that they can express their concerns to and let them know that there is someone who is willing to help them. If you are an adult that the child is familiar with, offer to do the same thing and sit and talk with them and be a trusted adult that the child can come to. If you are close with the family or your child is friends with the family, consider having the child over for sleepovers or to spend time with your family so that they can have some extra time away from their home. If you are a teacher, consider helping the child get involved in extracurricular activities that will allow them to do things that they enjoy in a safe place that keeps them away from exposure to the SUD. Family members should consider allowing the child to move in with them if it will be the best option to keep them safe and have a chance at a normal childhood.

Alert Authorities

Situations in which a parent’s SUD is a serious detriment to the health or safety of a child call for you to alert the authorities as to what is going on in the child’s home. No child should have to feel unsafe in their own home, let alone go through experiences that are traumatizing or that lead to the compromising of their well-being. If a child is being neglected, as sad as it is, they may need to be moved to the home of a family member or with someone who can handle raising them while their parents get the help that they need. Many children with parents who engage in substance use often are forced to grow up faster than their peers and may engage in illegal activities such as theft in an attempt to take care of themselves in cases where their parents cannot. There is no reason why a child should ever have to subject themselves to that type of life simply out of necessity, they do not deserve that. As an adult, it is your responsibility to point out these situations to the right people so that they can get help. Doing nothing is just as bad as what is going on in the home, especially if you can help the child.

Seek Support from the Education System

If you are worried about the outcome of contacting the police or Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), then use the school as a resource to get help for the child. Telling the guidance counselor and principal can help alert someone else to the situation, which means that more people will be working to help the child, which is what you want. Furthermore, they may know the correct people to get into contact with and can do so quickly in order to get the child out of that situation. While it is a hard conversation to have, it may save a child’s life and that makes it worth doing. Do not feel guilty for getting help, if the parent(s) with the SUD were in any other state, they would greatly appreciate you looking out for their child and they would probably do the same if they noticed another child going through the same situation. Reach out to those who can do something and get help for the child and then work to help the parent get help as well.

If you know a family in which the parent(s) are currently suffering from a SUD, there is a chance that you can help the children within that family unit. You may not understand what is going on with the family, but everyone has a responsibility to be there for children. We want to help you help the family get back on track. Make a call and get help for them today. Having a team and really community of support to help get them through can offer piece of mind and a sense of security. At Enlight Treatment Center, we emphasize care and comfort and we want to be that team for you to help them overcome issues and get back to feeling like themselves. Whether you have questions or want to visit our facility and talk with us in person, we are always here for you. You can call us at (805)719-7954 or schedule a tour of our facility at 11811 Darlene Lane, Moorpark, CA 93021.

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