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Kids Living With Their Parents' Addictions

More kids than you or I could imagine are going to bed afraid of what their drug addicted or alcoholic parent will do next.  If you’ve grown up with this or someone in your family is going through addiction problems, you may have some idea what I’m talking about.  Kids getting threatened, choked, thrown against walls, and abused on a regular basis.

Violence can certainly go on with a parent who’s stone sober.  But violence and addiction unfortunately go hand-in-hand much of the time.  The drugs and alcohol fuzz out the parent’s sense of reality and culpability.  They may appear to feel justified and blameless in their actions.  Or they may offer some remorse, but eventually explode again the next time they are drunk or high.

Kids Learn To Survive The Addictions

Kids living through this are pretty much just learning how to survive.  They may develop a sharp and expressive sense of humor.  They might learn how to defend themselves by fighting back both physically and verbally.  Others may retreat into a world of their own, disappearing within their own family to avoid the chaos and create a better reality for themselves.

These are very adaptive and often necessary adjustments when the addiction is raging.  But when the family tries to face the addiction or the child grows up with little resolution to the problems, their adjustments can make their life a lot more difficult.  You can imagine how each of these types of behaviors can make school tough and making friends even tougher.

Kids are amazingly resilient, but they are dependent on adults and not fully equipped to manage this kind of emotional assault.  Often they grow up with behaviors that either get them in trouble, make them very annoying to be around, or leave them vulnerable to emotional pain.

Readers Share Your Thoughts

I’m not speaking from personal family experience, but I have talked with and spent time with youth who have gone through these things. And I’ve talked with adults who grew up with alcoholism in their home and still struggled with their original coping methods hanging on long past their usefulness.

Readers, I’d like to invite you to share your thoughts and reactions to this topic.  If you have experienced this yourself, please feel welcome to make that known if you feel comfortable.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Ernst Vikne

Kids Living With Their Parents' Addictions

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2010). Kids Living With Their Parents' Addictions. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Jun 2010
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