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How to Shield My Child from Addicted Family Members

Parents with addicted family members may feel a strong sense of responsibility to protect their children

If you have a relative who struggles with drug addiction, you may feel a strong urge to protect your child from this person. Individuals with addiction often behave in unpredictable ways and it is understandable that you might not want your child around an addicted person, especially not alone or for prolonged periods of time. If your family member in Anchorage is struggling with addiction, learn how to protect your children from the destructive effects of addiction.

Common Concerns About Addicted Family Members

You may not want your addicted relative to drive your child anywhere, as you may worry that he might get behind the wheel while intoxicated. You also may prefer that this relative does not babysit your child, since individuals who are under the influence are unable to effectively care for children. You may worry that if this relative is ever alone with your child, he may be neglectful and put your child in harm’s way. Your relative may love your child dearly and if he ever offers to babysit or give your child a ride, he probably means well. Even so, while it is important to be kind and understanding of the addicted person, it is also important to implement healthy boundaries.

Maintaining a Relationship with the Addicted Family Member

Addiction affects both the afflicted person and everyone who is close to him or her, so it is perfectly okay to want to lookout for the wellbeing of your immediate family. While you cannot escape the effects of your loved one’s addiction completely, you can do your best to protect your children from harm. If you don’t want your children alone with this relative, that’s okay. Even so, protecting your child does not mean that you have to cut off all contact with your addicted family member. You may simply need to limit your contact with this individual to certain times of the day or to brief periods.

In some cases, the relative may welcome the boundaries. In an advice column in the Washington Post, a mother writes in asking how to talk to her children about their grandmother’s alcoholism, since as the children get older, they will start to notice their grandmother’s condition more and more. The author of the column points out that “Alcoholics don’t want to be embarrassed by their behavior any more than you want to be around it” and that the idea of limiting visits to public spaces or to times of the day when the grandmother is least likely to reach for a drink may actually be a welcome change for both the grandmother and the parents.

Setting Boundaries Can Help the Addicted Family Member Seek Help

Setting clear boundaries can also send the message to your relative that his or her addiction truly is a problem. This can be helpful, since many addicts live in denial of their condition. When loved ones fail to acknowledge an addicted family member’s struggles with substance abuse, they can actually enable that family member to continue down the path of addiction. By setting healthy boundaries in order to protect your children, you are sending the message to your family member that her drug use is not okay.

You can also let your addicted relative know that if she ever decides to seek help for her addiction, you can help her find treatment and that you are always willing to help her achieve addiction recovery. Your offer to help may actually lead your relative to seek recovery—according to Psych Central, most addicts who seek treatment do so due to positive family involvement. That’s why it’s important to not completely isolate yourself from the addicted person, if possible. You can protect your child and make a difference in the drug user’s life, too.

Educating Your Child About Addiction

Talking to your child about drug use and addiction can also help ensure that they understand that erratic and self-destructive behavior are not normal or acceptable ways to live. You can even discuss your relative’s addiction. Simply tell your children that this particular relative has a disease that affects both himself and the other people in his life. If your child asks you questions, don’t hesitate to answer. You can describe to your child how drug use can change the way a person acts. You can tell your child that this relative is not a bad person but that drugs have caused this relative to face a lot of problems in life. You can even describe how drugs have caused this relative to feel that he needs drugs all the time, and to feel that drugs are more important than anything else. Tell your child that this relative doesn’t actually love drugs more than people, but that loving drugs is a symptom of the disease of addiction.

You can also warn your child about how dangerous drug use can be, and talk to her about the importance of avoiding mind-altering substances. When parents talk to their kids about drug addiction, their kids are 50 percent less likely to use drugs, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). Talking to your child about drug use may seem difficult, since it is such a heavy topic. However, your discussions about drugs may actually prevent your child from developing an addiction one day.

Need Help Finding High Quality Addiction Treatment?

If you or a family member in Anchorage suffers from addiction, reach out for professional help today. Our toll-free helpline is available 24 hours a day, every day of the week, so that you can learn more about your options for high quality addiction treatment at any time. With the right treatment, you or your loved one can become equipped to achieve a lifetime of recovery. Don’t hesitate to contact us. We are always ready to help.