Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz” describes a young child growing up with an alcoholic and abusive father. “You beat time on my head/ With a palm caked hard by dirt;/ Then waltzed me off to bed/ Still clinging to your shirt.” The narrator starts to confuse this negative display with genuine affection. Because children are very vulnerable, they learn behaviors that their parents do. Because of this, addiction can have serious repercussions on the addict and their child. Here’s how an addicted parent affects children.
Sadly, one aspect is the vicious cycle it creates. For starters, these children are 45-79% more likely to become drug abusers themselves. Unfortunately, one quarter of US children grow up in a household where there’s substance abuse. That’s a lot of young children that are at risk.
Also, a child with a parent who’s addicted to opioids watches their parent constantly seek out the next high. This teaches the child that there aren’t consequences to any action. Therefore, they’re taught to succumb to any compulsion they have.
Children of parents with substance abuse problems are more likely to lash out in school. Also, they also have an increased risk of suffering from anxiety, depression, and other types of mental issues. This is because of adverse childhood experiences (ACE). ACE’s create a negative well-being throughout the rest of a person’s life.
Fortunately, there are steps people can take to ensure that they don’t become addicted. For example, if you know you’re predisposed to addiction, you can be proactive about it. By avoiding the genetic vulnerability, you can prevent addiction. So if your parent was addicted to heroin, you can make sure to avoid taking Percocets for pain management throughout your life.
Another way to help resolve this is to have the parent seek help. Putting the parent on the road to recovery to beat their battle with addiction can set a good example for their children, and help both the parent and child lead a healthier life.