Don’t Forget the Children

By Susan Jenkins, BRiDGES

An estimated one in four children under the age of 18 is impacted by a parent or guardian who has a problem with alcohol. Children of Alcoholics Week: A Celebration of Hope and Healing is celebrated internationally from February 14-20, 2010. The week is designated to raise the public’s awareness of the impact addiction has on children.

Living in a home where someone drinks too much is different for every child. It is not always obvious by looking at the child or the family that alcoholism or addiction is a problem. In some homes, the drinking is done in secret, and the only ones who know are the family. For others, the whole community knows there is a problem, but rarely does anyone say anything.

And, what about the children? Some children, because of behavior or attendance problems, are noticed by the caring adults in their lives and receive help. Physical, sexual or verbal abuse and/or neglect may bring the family to the attention of the school or the authorities. Many other children, though, will work very hard to succeed and will shine at academics, sports and other endeavors despite their troubles at home. Adults may suspect or even know there is a problem, but they don’t want to get involved. It is easy to rationalize that “things can’t be that bad” when the young person is a model student.

Well-meaning adults who are aware of the drinking problem may say nothing because the young person is saying nothing. By playing it safe, adults deprive that young person of the opportunity to let them know they care. By breaking the silence, the young person gets the message that they have been noticed, they are not alone and help is available.

It can be hard to know what to do. For more information call: BRiDGES, the Madison County Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc. at 697-3947 or toll free at 866 443-5744. Or, call the Addiction Services Helpline at 1-877-8HOPENY. Find help for alcoholism, drug abuse and problem gambling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.