This year’s Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week is currently underway, and the need has never been more significant during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports suggest that alcoholism and drug abuse could rise as more of us suffer disruptions to our daily lives. For an alcoholic or drug user, even one who truly wants to stop using, that’s a perfect trigger for a relapse – or worse.
Today, about 33 million people in the United States deal with the detrimental effects of alcoholism and drug addiction on themselves, their communities, and, especially their children, who are at a greater risk of developing various mental illnesses in their adulthood.
The mission of the National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) is to raise awareness to break the cycle of addiction, and Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week 2021 is the perfect opportunity to reach out to those who may be suffering silently.
According to Recoverycnt.com, approximately one out of four kids in the U.S. are directly exposed to addiction to drugs or alcoholism. Adolescence is a critical time when proper emotional development is so vital to a child’s overall development and health.
Children of alcoholics suffer silently and needlessly, and the COVID-19 pandemic has likely made their struggles more challenging.
What are the effects of alcoholism on children as they grow up?
Researchers continue to document the relationship between alcoholism-related childhood trauma and its effects on a child’s emotional and interpersonal development. The results range far and wide, including problems with basic socialization in school. NACoA says that children who grow up in households with an alcoholic parent may even struggle with certain language skills deficiencies.
Eventually, over a lifetime of lost birthdays and holidays, the trauma that the children of alcoholics endure puts them at a significantly higher risk of developing alcoholism and drug addiction disorder themselves. Sometimes a child can suffer so much that they need therapy simply to understand what a responsible, loving parent should look like.
An alcoholic parent’s primary concern is feeding their addiction and continuing the cycle. One may not think that he or she is putting their habit before the needs of a child, but that’s what ultimately happens.
When the household is abusive, the situation only grows more dire for the child. There are reports that the children of abusive alcoholics specifically tend to suppress their feelings. It may be a coping mechanism to protect against an angry mother or father who physically abuses the child regularly.
Addictive behaviors can also become normalized in an abusive family dynamic. In extreme cases, alcoholic parents may directly enable underage drinking as young as their early teens. The results could be a deep pattern of denial and potentially repressed trauma.
Sometimes, the family dynamic’s toxicity is far more subtle but no less detrimental in the end.
Alcoholic parents may be adept at concealing their addiction from the child. The indirect trauma experienced may arise from financial difficulties or a failing marriage without necessarily inflicting any physical or verbal abuse.
Since children develop emotionally at different times, it’s challenging to pinpoint scientifically when alcoholism-related abuse puts the child at further risk. But what we do know is this: now is the time to act.
What you can do to help this year
The Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week 2021 aims to break the silence and offer a ray of hope to kids living with alcoholic parents.
That’s why the NACoA believes in empowering children to heal, whether the wounds are still fresh or come to light later in life.
They offer many programs and resources to help professional therapists deal with individual children raised in alcoholic households. The NACoA’s commitment to advocating for children allows them to cast a wide net and hear from experts across the world.
There’s hope for recovery, whether you’re an alcoholic or a drug addict, but only if the proper resources are in place. This year, with COVID-19 still running rampant across our communities, the urgency of spreading mental health awareness has never been greater.