The week of February 12th marks the Children of Addiction Awareness week, recognized in the USA, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, and Great Britain. This campaign, led by The National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA), is intended to break the silence around children affected by parental addiction and offer them a chance to become children of promise. According to information from NACoA’s Website, one in four children lives in a family impacted by parental addiction, and these children are the most vulnerable population to develop addiction at some point in their lives. Neighbors need to know that children nearby may live in hidden chaos caused by parental drinking and other drug use, and that one truly caring adult may be able to help them separate the disease of addiction from the parent they love. COAs often learn special rules and roles, which include attempting to protect the family image, keeping feelings to themselves, not trusting others, assuming parental responsibilities, excelling at school, trying to make others feel better, adapting to situations in a detached fashion, or using negative behavior to attract attention. In general, COAs have higher rates of stress-related illnesses and conditions, including ulcers, depression, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, tension, anxiety, and eating disorders. The positive news is that help is available, and COAs can be helped even when their parent continues to drink or use other substances. Treatment court judges can initiate change within the family unit by addressing the needs of the children. Understanding who a “safe person” is and which adults can be trusted is crucial, including within the school setting. As the impact of the pandemic has increased the impact of alcohol and opioid use in this country over the last two years, it is even more important that the non-using parent and other sincere adults seek assistance and support when discussing a parent’s addiction with a child.
For more information and resources visit NACoA and COA Awareness Week. You can make a positive difference in a child’s life!