By Bethany Winkel – February 22nd 2012
What are we doing to our children? As more and more Americans develop alcohol dependence problems and choose not to get help, more of our country’s children are suffering.
Parents are the ones who are supposed to protect children, the ones who talk to them about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, the ones who provide a stable living situation for kids to come home to. But unfortunately, many parents are failing at that task. A new report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) paints a bleak picture of family life in the United States. On average, 7.5 million children — about 10.5 percent of the country’s under-18 population — lived with a parent abusing alcohol during any given year between 2005 and 2010. (1) Some 6.1 million children live in two-parent households where one or both parents suffered from alcohol abuse. The remaining 1.4 million lived in a single-parent home where the adult had a drinking problem. (2)
Effects of Alcoholism
This means that one in 10 children are being subjected to the effects of alcoholism in their own home. We certainly can’t expect that these children are getting a very good anti-substance abuse message in their home; How can we expect these kids to stay away from alcohol when they are exposed to it every day in their home? Children of alcoholics are at greater risk for anxiety disorders, depression, and academic delay. They are more likely to suffer abuse or neglect, and they are more likely to become alcoholics themselves someday.
Many alcoholic parents feel they are functional and that they are sparing their children from the worst details of alcoholism because they can still hold down a job and put food on the table. This is a serious problem though. No child should have to live with an alcoholic parent, and the prevalence of this, according to the study, is alarming.
SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said, “The enormity of this public health problem goes well beyond these tragic numbers as studies have shown that the children of parents with untreated alcohol disorders are at far greater risk for developing alcohol and other problems later in their lives.” (3)
Helping Children of Alcoholics
Last week was Children of Alcoholics Week. This event hasn’t exactly caught on across the country yet, because it still doesn’t make many news headlines, but we should make it a point to dedicate time and resources to solving this problem for our youth. “SAMHSA and others are promoting programs that can help those with alcohol disorders find recovery – not only for themselves, but for the sake of their children. SAMHSA is also playing a key role in national efforts to prevent underage drinking and other forms of alcohol abuse,” Pamela Hyde added. (3)