The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 25 percent of American kids grow up in households where substance abuse is present. For children and teens, living with a parent struggling with substance abuse can be a chaotic, scary and lonely experience. Not only do these children face the stress and heartache of their parents’ drinking or drug use in their daily lives, but they are also at greater risk of eventually developing alcohol or other drug abuse and mental health problems themselves.
Help is out there. Children and teens can talk to a school guidance counselor, coach, or trusted teacher. For those who attend religious services, a clergy member is also an option.
Children may be reluctant to talk to an acquaintance about such a personal problem. Another good option is Alateen**, a program that offers support for children of parents who are struggling with drugs and alcohol. Alateen members come together in a free and confidential setting to:
- Share experiences and hope.
- Discuss difficulties.
- Learn effective ways to cope with problems.
- Encourage one another.
Other Options are Listed Below:
- TeensHealth: Coping with an Alcoholic Parent: This resource guide from the Nemours Foundation explains the disease of alcoholism and gives kids ideas and resources on how they can improve their self-esteem, get help for an alcoholic parent, and find support for themselves.
- National Association for Children of Alcoholics Just4Kids and Just4Teens: The NACoA is a national nonprofit organization that connects families, kids, and teens affected by alcoholism with the resources they need to stay safe and healthy. The Just4Kids and Just4Teens pages include FAQs and resources for young people in need of emotional support and guidance.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: For TeensThis online resource provides links to fact sheets about intoxicating substances, access to treatment resources, and support services for young people.
- National Runaway Safeline: This confidential hotline offers support, crisis intervention, resources, and educational information for youths who have run away from home or who are thinking about running away.
- Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA): ACoA is a recovery fellowship for individuals who grew up in households with one or more alcoholic adults. This group, based on the principles of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, provides support and resources at no charge.
- Parental Substance Use and the Child Welfare System: This guide from the Child Welfare Information Gateway is directed at therapists and other addiction treatment professionals; however, it contains valuable information and statistics for the general public about the impact of substance abuse on families, and on children in particular.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): National Helpline: This free support and referral service is available to anyone with questions about substance use disorders or mental health issues, including the children of addicted parents. Calls are kept completely confidential, and the service is available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. The helpline’s website also provides links to online educational materials about substance abuse and mental illness.
**Some Alateen groups to have programs for younger kids, as well as teenagers. If you don’t know where to look for a program in your area, you can always contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. They help people dealing with all kinds of problems, not just suicide, and they may be able to help you find resources in your area.