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Our friend from Argentina has set up a project for children of addicted parents. Here is an article she recently wrote and wanted to share with us here in the UK.
Addiction comes in many forms and is a common issue. It can be to alcohol, substances, people or a certain type of behaviours or activities. For these matters, there are several prevention guidelines and treatments that deal, not only with the person who suffers, but also with their relatives (mostly parents, couples, siblings and friends).
But when the parents are the ones coping addiction problems, this can severely affect the relationship between on their children and parents.
The child does not choose to be in a relationship with a parent who has an addiction. He is being raised by them. Children get to experience terrible situations that, for several reasons, they cannot share with anybody else. Unlike every other relationship, children are not co-dependent. They are PARADEPENDENT.
In Argentina at our local support group we emphasise the difference with co-dependency of spouses or other adults. This is due to the fact that a child born in a family with addicted parents is truly not able to walk away. We use the term paradependency because children of addicted parents may look like, act similar to, and resemble their parental behaviour. The prefix ‘para-‘, among other meanings, implies this. Children of addicted parents resemble their parents, and may somehow act like a person with an addiction, but they are not addicted or co-dependent.
A paradependant didn’t choose to live in these circumstances. They cannot get away from their home due to age, maturity, or maybe because they aren’t capable of comprehending what’s going on in order to be able to protect themselves from greater damages. Co-dependents, on the other hand, aren’t always aware of their problem but, at some point they have the possibility of choosing to step aside of the situation.
Children raised in a dysfunctional family with addiction, will be deeply affected in different areas of their adult lives. At times adults may see that a part of their personality will mirror their parent´s addictive behaviour and personality.
Living in this environment is a heavy load that entails huge psychological, emotional and sometimes, physical consequences. It generates feelings such as angriness, pain, frustration, embarrassment and impotence, among others. It affects the child’s self-esteem and the way she is perceived by others. It is often hard for them to relax and simply have fun.
Another problem paradependants undergo is financial worries. They cannot prevent their parents from misusing money. The child lives constantly on alert, worried about their parent’s whereabouts. They can also experience obsessive rescuing behaviours in order to “save” them or make them stop. Children adapt to their family´s problems, supposing it´s normal, because is the only thing they know.
As adults, they may have problems establishing intimate relationships. Adults of addicted parents can be mistrustful, too hard on themselves, and have anxiety problems or control issues.
At times, parents with addiction problems can become a generational issue. This can generate an environment of emotional instability and constant ambiguous messages related to substances consumption. Limits and boundaries can be blurred. Paradependants may abandon their own lives and start living around their parents’ behaviour.
Many times parents believe they can conceal their addiction from their kids. That children don’t realise what’s going on. But children get everything. They just aren’t old enough to put things in perspective and really understand what’s going on and the negative consequences for their future.
Information about children of addicted parents and people is increasing every day. They can be people that we meet daily, and if we are those children, we need to gather all the information we can in order to understand what’s going on and understand ourselves better. Maybe, the suffering we are going through comes from our earlier years and to know this is something we can heal, can be very relieving.