Special Authored Article by Rose Locking
As much as we want to protect our children, bad things still happen. Early childhood trauma has a profound effect on quality of life for children well into adulthood. It’s important that children who are traumatized get the help they need right away. Early intervention is key when substance use is not well established. This often results in a more successful outcome for the substance user who attends a residential inpatient drug and alcohol program. It is important that it be acknowledged by the adults as well. Denial has a pwerfully destructive impact on any family that struggles with substance use and trauma. It affects the whole family which means in the ideal situation every member of the family should receive some type of therapy to allow for the healing process to happen.
Handling The Teen Affected By Trauma
Perhaps your teen experienced early childhood trauma, or perhaps he or she has gone through something more recently. For example, if your teen has been a victim of bullying, a physical trauma such as an accident or an illness, sexual assault or even a major change, he or she may experience the effects of trauma. Kids who have been traumatized, regardless of their age, are 1.5 times more likely to abuse substances than kids who haven’t experienced trauma.
If you are the parent of a teen or a young adult, you may be grappling with the after-effects of their trauma. This could mean aggressiveness, acting out, excessive risk-taking, substance abuse, poor performance in school, etc.
Substance abuse is particularly alarming. It can lead to a lifelong struggle with addiction. Many adults who find themselves in and out of rehab or jail are still experiencing the effects of childhood trauma that haven’t been addressed. Drinking and using drugs are a common way for people to try and cope with feelings of pain, fear, anxiety, anger and helplessness. Unfortunately, substance use is not a healthy means of coping, and will only make matters worse. Getting help for your child as early as possible can help avoid this problem.
What If Your Adolescent Is Already Using?
While drug treatment is an effective way to deal with a substance abuse problem, it doesn’t always address trauma. Healing from trauma isn’t generally something that can’t be done in a few therapy sessions or a 30 day drug treatment program. It is a process. If your child has suffered from abuse or some other type of trauma in the past, and is experimenting with or abusing drugs, it’s important to acknowledge the part that trauma may be playing in the situation and get help right away! Look for a treatment center that includes a specific program to start the process of healing. Aftercare planning will be critical to continued success. So make sure that the therapists specializes in trauma. Also look into EMDR it is an effective treatment that helps to minimize rapidly PTSD from the trauma.
So what exactly is early childhood trauma? It’s important to note that not everyone looks at circumstances the same but the following is a general list of experiences that may lead to trauma for children:
- Sexual abuse
- Physical abuse
- Emotional or verbal abuse
- Witnessing domestic violence
- Natural disaster
- Divorce, particularly if it was a volatile situation
- Death: Loss of a parent, sibling or close family member
- Serious Medical procedures, Diseases or Surgeries
- Parental abandonment, including a parent who is emotionally unavailable or neglectful
Caregivers aren’t always clear on the best way to help a child. There are some common misconceptions about children and how they deal with traumatic situations, and those misconceptions may cause parents to not take action. Here are some myths that need to be dispelled:
Young children (under 5 years) will forget about the trauma
This may or may not be true, depending on the age of the child when the event(s) take place, but that does not mean that damage hasn’t been done. The fear, stress and feelings of powerlessness and confusion will linger on for years.
Children are more resilient than adults, and so “get over” trauma more easily
Children are resilient, but this does not mean they are not deeply hurt by what’s happened to them. They may appear to go on with their lives quickly, but don’t let that fool you. Many children will show no outward signs of trauma for years.
Talking about the trauma will only upset them
It may upset them, but that is okay. Therapy is the best place to discuss the trauma, but parents shouldn’t avoid the topic if the child wants to bring it up. When parents deny or ignore the issue, it can leave the child feeling abandoned, or make them question themselves.
If the child is very young, he or she will not benefit from therapy
Even preverbal children can benefit from therapy. Depending on the trauma and the child’s temperament, therapy may need to go on for years. While this may seem unnecessary, it’s not. The implications of severe trauma may impact your child’s future in many ways, so it’s important that the child gets all the help they need, for as long as they need it.
The Impact Of Trauma On Children Through Adulthood
Unfortunately, trauma doesn’t just go away on its own. Children who experience trauma may not talk about it, and they may appear to move on more quickly to their normal routine and activities. However, there is strong evidence that although resilient in many ways, children who experience trauma are profoundly changed, often in ways that do not show up for years.
It’s Never Too Early To Intervene
If your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, it isn’t too early to get help. The sooner the problem is addressed, the better. Getting your son or daughter help in the form of a good adolescent program that offers addiction treatment and intensive therapy may help prevent a years-long battle that will take a heavy toll.
If you are dealing with a young adult, you can still help. Be open and honest with them about your fears, talk to them about what they went through and let them know it may be the root of their problem. If things have escalated and they are abusing substances, arrange a professional intervention.
Getting Your Child The Right Kind Of Help
It’s important that you get your child the help that is right for them. Find a child therapist that specializes in trauma. This is important. Not all counselors specialize in this. It’s not likely that your family counselor is going to have this expertise.
The Problem Won’t Go Away Overnight
The healing process is just that — a process. The earlier you start therapy for your child (and perhaps yourself) the better. With that said, it’s never too late to get help, either! If your teen is struggling with addiction, now is the time to act to get them the help they need so they can overcome addiction and find some peace in their lives.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.
8 thoughts on “Trauma And Addiction: How Parents Can Help Their Kids”
This is so profound, so true, and so valuable. Thank you.
The credit goes to Rose, but thank you and I agree. This blog is just for fun … I guess more like a hobby. However, in my day, I work with a lot of parents. These folks have kids in their 20’s already very damaged. I tell you … 10 years ago …. it was very rare to work with someone that young, with a full-blown addiction. It’s only antidotal, but the trend seems like it’s getting worse at a quick rate.
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I’m pushing 50 and haven’t recovered….just starting to realize why i am the way I am. This information is so valuable.
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I appreciate you sharing that with me. I know for me — genetics also played a part in my addiction. When I was very small I was given up for adoption. When I was older I learned that most of my birth family had similar problems. When you combine environment and genetics to a childhood experience, it really does shape the future. Please contact me privately if you ever want to talk more. just email me at email@example.com and I will send you my cell phone number.
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Genetics are HUGE in regards to addiction. My dad’s side can be traced back centuries to addiction. I had two great Aunts who died within days of alcohol related death on the Reservation in the 1800’s. My dad, his mom, both her parents and many of her siblings were alcoholics. I have two sisters who continue to abuse alcohol. In fact my 5x Great Grandfather was the first recorded member of my family to succumb to alcohol. Some accounts say he was an alcoholic, some say it was a one time event … https://nativeheritageproject.com/2012/05/29/oneida-chief-skenandoah/
It is a family destroying poison. Those who manage to avoid the drug more often than not are emotionally damaged….kind of like second hand smoke.
Great post, thank you. My site and posts are not nearly as elegant as many of yours out there, I have much appreciation for the beautiful blogs. I write out of my experiences to heal myself, share with others, and perhaps grow into a profession in addiction medicine. Sadly, my young adult son has an addiction to alcohol. I am not surprised and I own my role in it. Thank you for putting this out there.
I appreciate your candor. Don’t judge your writing. Your blog has heart and love and that is what people connect to. In my day job, I talk to lots of parents like you. Well, to be perfectly honest, my husband and I have had our own struggles (both individually and with our children). It is very painful. Alcohol is a tough one because the person (at least me) can become very mean and angry. Keep focusing on fixing yourself and not your child. That way you will be able to control the progress you make. :smiley:
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Thank you. Yes, I cannot fix him, only myself. My hope is that in healing myself I will help him heal himself through modeling the better ways to deal with pain.
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