Guest Blog By Emily Graham
About 1 in 11 children in the US live with a parent who has a substance addiction problem, reports the National Library of Medicine. This is a worrying statistic – such kids tend to have turbulent lives and many mental health challenges. The addicted parent may demonstrate an extreme spectrum of behavior to the child, ranging from healthy caring to outright abuse, leaving the child feeling confused, anxious, angry, traumatized, and unstable.
Understanding that the erratic behavior is a result of the parent’s substance addiction can help the child come to terms with the situation. It gives them insight into the “why”, that it’s not their fault, and helps them gain more mental peace. Furthermore, if the child is of suitable age, it can help the child practically assist the parent.
Technology can be an invaluable asset in giving the child insight into addiction (and related behavior). Below, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Centerexplains how.
Access to educational resources
First and foremost, technology provides children with easy access to helpful educational resources covering addiction. The child can conveniently read articles, watch videos, and check other resources from their smartphones or computers. Much of this material is explained simply, in a way even young kids would understand. Moreover, children can have pressing questions answered directly by experts. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation offers free educational resources for kids.
A parent’s addiction can be hard for the child to witness. Sometimes, if the parent is abusive, it affects them directly. With technology like video conferencing and Chatbots, kids can quickly connect to qualified therapists and other trained mental health professionals. Said experts can help the child make sense of their parent’s behavior and provide emotional and mental support. If you’re a child or young adult looking for such support, reach out to North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center.
Virtual participation in support groups
Support groups provide multiple benefits – an avenue to express your feelings, access to helpful information, access to people in similar situations, increased self-understanding, and anxiety relief. Children can’t always join support groups in the real world, for various reasons. With technology, kids can join virtual support groups (including forums, social media groups, chat groups, and more).
Communicating with parents struggling with addiction
Sometimes the parent struggling with addiction may not be physically present for the child. In such cases, messaging and video conferencing apps allow theparent to communicate with the child remotely. Instead of having the other parent (or a stranger) explain the reasons for the absence, the struggling parent could do so in person, which is better for everyone involved.
Second or third-hand experience
Understanding addiction is easier if you witness the effects personally or hear stories from people who are struggling with a substance abuse disorder. There are several apps out there – like AA Big Book and Sober Grid – that provide kids with second or third-hand experiences from people suffering from addiction or their loved ones. The AA Big Book app, for example, is full of personal stories, prayers, and how-to guides revolving around addiction.
Role reversal: Helping the addicted parent
Sometimes, the child looks after the parent instead of the other way around. This role reversal is, unfortunately, frequent in families where one or both parents suffers from an addiction. Technology can provide the child access to helpful resources on addiction treatment and recovery, not to mention get direct assistance from qualified experts for their parents. For instance, technology can raise awareness of and provides access to addiction recovery facilities that can help beat addiction.
Understanding the problem is an important first step in managing it. When the child understands the parent’s addiction – including the causes and symptoms – they know not to take it personally. It can help them gain more mental peace and inner stability. In many, it can help the child assist the parent in recovering. Technology can both facilitate said understanding and act as useful support when the child wants to help the parent recover.