As terrible as addiction can be to the addict, the children of the addict are likely the ones who suffer the most. As responsibilities and healthy relationships fall by the wayside, the addict destroys bonds and trust they formerly had with their own children. This can damage the children’s wellbeing in many ways.
Chaotic Home Environment
Countless studies have shown that a stable home environment is invaluable for a child’s formative period. Understandably, addicts can be the most unreliable people you will meet and they will likely give children a home that is unsafe and unsecure. You may feel your addiction is isolated in its damage, but the longterm effects of a chaotic home environment can be catastrophic for children.
Increased Risk of Addiction
In every youth there are risk factors associated with the development of an addiction. For children of addicts, their risk of developing an addiction can be much higher than their peers who came from drug-free homes.
When a parent develops a long-term drug or alcohol addiction, it begins to play a part in their health and genetics. The genes they then pass on to their future children may be “tainted” in a way that creates more addictive traits. This means, simply by coming from addicted parents, your child is at greater risk of developing their own addiction.
Forced Into Early Adulthood
In America’s “extended adolescence” phase, it seems more and more young adults seem to be living at home and delaying adulthood. Unfortunately for children of addicts, they are often forced into adulthood at a far premature age, and suffer the consequences later in life.
Children who live in a home with addicted parents have to learn how to become more self-reliant and often end up caring for siblings as well. Parents will often blame their addiction on the ill-behavior or messy habits of the children, causing a terrible cycle of guilt.
This premature aging in children can lead to long-term problems in their personal lives. They may hold themselves responsible for everyone else’s problems or feel a need to control every situation. Later in life, a rebellion against their stolen childhood could occur, where they find an inability to maintain their responsibilities and home lives, leading to a cycle of damage.
Perhaps the worst effect addiction has on children can be their lifelong emotional problems. These can stem from the guilt over being blamed for their parent’s addictions to their anger at their parents for ruining their childhood. In the long run, this can mean a failure to form deep attachments, inability to trust and poor self-worth. They may also experience greater run-ins with depression and anxiety.