How to Shield My Child from Addicted Family Members

How to Shield My Child from Addicted Family Members

Addiction affects everyone in a family, not just the addict. A family may exude the following codependent behaviors as a result of someone else’s addiction:

  • Making excuses for the addict’s harmful, hurtful or even illegal actions
  • Avoiding conflict at all costs, including allowing oneself to endure abuse
  • “Bailing out” an addict, whether literally or figuratively, so that she experiences fewer consequences of her actions
  • Exploding in anger or rage
  • Blaming oneself or someone else for addictive behavior

Codependency often causes bystanders to abuse drugs so they can cope with living with an addict. This condition might also cause people to soothe their pain through compulsive behaviors like eating disorders, gambling addictions, self-harm, hoarding or other ineffective acts.

Addiction and Children

Children are especially vulnerable to the fallout of a family member’s addiction. While young ones are often highly resilient and adaptive to their environments, they still suffer greatly from codependency. In fact, if you couple their inability to understand the addict with their ignorance of healthy relationships, then they are at great risk of addiction themselves. When children are subject to addiction through an addicted family member, they are likely to exhibit the following symptoms later in life:

  • Deep insecurity or vulnerability
  • Constant fear
  • Self-esteem problems
  • Learning unhealthy ways of coping with stress and pain through observation
  • Embarrassment
  • Developing untenable habits that focus on making others happy
  • Poor conflict-resolution skills
  • A desire to leave home before they are ready
  • Difficulty at school
  • Problems with authority figures
  • Intimacy problems in adulthood

Unfortunately, the list goes on and on. The toxic effects of addiction and codependency on young people are well documented, so it is good for parents to shield their children from the abusive and frightening behavior of addicted family members. However, learn how to accomplish this task while avoiding codependent behavior.

Establish Healthy Boundaries

An addict’s loved ones must understand establish and maintain healthy boundaries to protect themselves from addiction. This process is much more challenging that it seems, but healthy boundaries prevent the disease of addiction from spilling over into non-addicted loved ones. They also help good-hearted family members avoid acts that seem helpful, but that end up worsening the addiction. Such flawed behaviors include giving the addict a place to live, money or even access to children and the family. The following boundaries can be difficult to enforce, but they are also critical to recovery:

  • Keep alcohol and drugs from family gatherings
  • Withhold financial assistance from the addict
  • Refuse the addict from living at home until she seeks treatment
  • Break off communication with the addict

Again, these steps can be extremely difficult to take, but they are often exactly what addicts need to begin recovery. The disease prevents addicts from seeing how dire their situation is, because their mindset is not a choice, but the result of chemical changes in the brain. Therefore, by cushioning the blows of addiction, you may prevent someone from hitting rock bottom. Many addicts avoid help until they hit bottom and realize how desperate they have become.

Healthy boundaries also help any children who are in the equation. When young people see you standing up for their safety with difficult commitments such as these, it teaches them the value of discipline and integrity. When you enforce tough love, you not only confront the disease, but you also protect your children from its fallout. Lastly, you will model healthy living for children while preventing further abuse to yourself.

The Power of Community in Addiction Recovery

Humans are a community-driven species, so denying access to your community might be an important step in an addict’s recovery journey. Reinforce healthy community values—such as self-respect, self-discipline, truth telling and caring for others—to enhance your community and to model the value of community to young ones.

As you consider shielding your children from addicted family members, reinforce your own mental, emotional and spiritual health by plugging into a community of people with similar experiences. Support groups not only encourage you to set healthy boundaries, but they also provide strong relationships with peers and mentors along your journey. Youth-specific support groups can even help young people articulate their feelings, understand what is happening to their loved one and learn healthy communication skills to enforce their boundaries.

24-hour Confidential Helpline

If you would like more information about protecting your child from addiction, then please call our toll-free helpline now. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day with confidential advice; they also have access to support services designed especially for people like you. Call now for instant help.