Does my drinking or substance use affect my kids?
Of course, it does, but HOW does it affect your kids? Some
of these things might be difficult to hear, but necessary.
We're going to be looking at it from the child's point of view, focusing specifically on how a parent's alcohol or other substance use or abuse affects you as a kid and even as an adult now.
If you want to know if you have an addiction or a loved one has an addiction problem and how severe that problem is, you can click HERE to download the criteria for substance use disorder.
Affect #1: When you're using substances, you are modeling that behavior for your kid. If you use substances in your home, you're modeling that's the way adults in the family have fun or party. It may come across to your kid as really glorified, "Ooh, that's how adults are happy! That's how adults connect. When I get older, I'm going to do that!"
If you're using substances to help you cope with stress or problems, then you're also modeling that for your kids by using it as a primary coping skill that your kids are picking up on. You're modeling that this is the way you get through the tough stuff. For example, if you're the kind of person who has a few drinks when you come home from work because that helps you relax and calm down, you're also modeling that for your kids.
Affect #2: Another way that alcohol or substance abuse will affect children is it will make you less emotionally consistent with how you show up in their lives. The kids don't know what to expect from their parents when they get home. Are they going to be happy, angry, or sad? As a parent, it's going to make you inconsistent naturally because it affects your mood. If you are using substances, it affects how you perceive and interact in the world.
Affect #3: The third way your substance use impacts your kids is it probably affects your relationships, those can be with a spouse, your partner, your parents, or your friends. Your kids are watching those relationships and how you interact with them.
For example, if your spouse is always upset with you because of your substance use. That's going to create tension, fighting, and arguments between you and your spouse. That trickles down onto your kid. You are modeling that kind of behavior and that this is how adults work out problems.
Affect #4: Another way substance use can affect your kids is it affects your ability to be a good provider. Even moderate substance use will impact your work in some way. If nothing else, you're spending a lot of money on substances, and that money could be going to something more productive. An extreme situation when a parent has a substance abuse problem is that they may have difficulty keeping a job.
Affect #5: Another way substance abuse affects kids is your ability to be present with your kids. Meaning emotional connection, being present with your kids is probably one of the hardest things parents have to do. We're juggling so many things, work, paying bills, household chores, picking up kids from school, going to the games, etc. Even in the best situations, it's difficult to be emotionally present with your kid. When you lay your substances on top of that, you get inconsistent with your ability to be there.
If the substance is the thing that's making you lighten up and be fun or be a better parent, then that probably means that you're using it to the point that when you're not using, you're not as good of a parent, and you're not as present.
Has someone else's substance abuse ever affected you as a child growing up? What effects did it have on you as a kid? Does it still have effects on you now? Hearing about your experience might help the rest of us shed light on it and understand the long-term implications.
Watch this video next because it's all about the long-term effects of growing up in an addicted household.