Addiction, as the experts say, is a family disease. It has roots in genetics and family history, trauma and relationships, and it impacts every member of a family. If you have a teen struggling with addiction, you are probably worried about your other children. Are they seeing too much? Are they going to become addicts too? Among your many questions, the most important is figuring out how to protect your children.
How Addiction Affects Siblings
There are a number of ways in which your other children are suffering because of your addicted teen. Take some time to reflect on this and see if you can find the signs in your kids. Can you tell the ways in which they have changed because of having an addicted sibling? Have you asked them how it makes them feel?
One of the most common impacts is that the addict takes up much of the parents’ attention. You may not mean to neglect or pay less attention to your other kids, but you can’t help it. You have to spend time trying to help your addicted teen in order to save his life. What happens as a result is that your other children may begin to take on more responsibilities to pick up the slack. They may feel hurt for not getting much of your time. They may even be developing their own problems and issues that are going unnoticed and unaddressed or may act out as a way to get your attention.
Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Children
You don’t want to neglect or ignore your other children and you don’t want them to go down the same path as your addicted child. You also know that you need to give a certain amount of attention to your addicted child. His need is great and you can’t ignore it. Here are some things you can do to protect his siblings:
- Get other adults involved. It takes a village to raise a child, the saying goes. Get grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends involved in your children’s lives. If you can’t always be there for them, make sure other adults you trust can be.
- Get your teen into rehab. Perhaps the best thing you can do for everyone is to get your addicted teen back on track. A residential rehab facility will get him intensive treatment while allowing you to redirect your attention to your other children.
- Go to family therapy. Get everyone involved in therapy sessions to make sure your other children’s psychological and emotional needs are being addressed. You may even be able to participate at rehab.
- Find support groups. You can find support groups for the loved ones of addicts, which can really help your other children cope in healthful ways.
- Spend one-on-one time with each child. You need to both tell and show your kids that you haven’t forgotten them. Take a few hours out, or even a whole day if you can, to spend time with each child. Do something he or she wants to do and just have fun.
- Talk and be open, in age-appropriate ways. Being open about what is happening is important. Hiding addiction and the effect it has doesn’t help your kids. Just be sure to talk about it in ways that are appropriate for the ages of your children.
Addiction is a terrible disease and it affects everyone. To protect your children, you need to find the time to help them cope with everything they are experiencing.