Pubdate: Mon, 25 Feb 2002
Source: Salina Journal, The (KS)
Copyright: 2002 -- The Salina Journal
Author: Ann M Ryan
Bookmark: (Youth)


He could be your neighbor's child. She could be your little girl's 
best friend. They look like regular, fun-loving kids. Behind those 
sweet young faces they have a secret, one they're not talking about 
- -- Mom or Dad uses illicit drugs or drinks too much.

When children grow up in a household with a substance-abusing parent 
they can develop problems that last a lifetime. They are at risk for 
depression and anxiety, often lack social and other skills and are 
more likely to develop substance abuse problems than children who 
don't have a drug-dependent parent.

Children of substance abusers also may feel isolated, embarrassed or 
afraid to bring friends home. Experts say these kids need caring 
adults to help them, maybe just to talk, to let them know they're not 
being disloyal to their family by talking. Trusted adults (such as 
relatives, friends, teachers, coaches or school nurses) can help 
children of substance abusers feel less alone and unloved and 
confused by their parent's actions. These caring adults can help kids 
learn that their parent's drug use is not their fault, they can't 
cure it or make it better.

Adults can spot troubled kids by being aware of signs like 
withdrawal, tardiness at school, fluctuating academic or other 
performance, and/or physical ailments such as headaches or 
stomachaches with no apparent cause. Sometimes just talking about the 
problem at home or school is enough for a child. Other times kids 
need help through a support group such as Alateen. One 12-year-old 
girl in a support program for children of substance abusers said, 
"Group is like a family to me. I'm safe there and it's filled with 
young people who understand. Each time they remind me that it's not 
my fault and give me hope."

Adults who help a child of a substance abuser offer a lifeline that 
can last a lifetime. For more information, including resources that 
can offer adults information on assisting kids of substance abusers, 
visit or call 1-800-788-2800. If you would like 
more information on local assistance, please contact the Salina Area 
Prevention Partnership or the Regional Prevention Center of North 
Central Kansas at (785) 495-0995.

- -- ANN M. RYAN


a.. Ann M. Ryan is director of the Salina Area Prevention Partnership.
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