By the time most people are old enough to gather their brood (i.e. have and raise children), they have a basic understanding that actions render consequences. But addicts in the midst of their disease are another story. An addict will become so absorbed in their addiction that the rest of the world seems to fall away. There is no future. There is only the present moment with your drug. But while an addict loses any idea of consequence, their family makes up for it. This forms the beginning of what can be a lifelong codependency problem.
Friends and family of addicts are greatly affected by a loved one’s addiction. Children are especially under fire and prone to harboring the effects of a parent’s addiction. You may not see it happen and you might still not see it now, but your addiction will likely cause your child to become codependent.
What is Codependency?
A codependent person places the needs of everyone else above their own. They’re intense people-pleasers and will do so even if they are harmed in the process. They have an extreme fear of rejection and therefore will do almost anything to keep a relationship intact.
Codependency can be very harmful for a child. Having to be constantly aware of a parent’s behaviors will cause a child to mature too quickly. They’ll likely carry those tendencies into adulthood and compromise their own feelings and wellbeing to keep others happy.
- Fear of rejection
- Need for constant approval
- Intimacy issues
- Constant people-pleasing
- Emotional blowups/outbursts
A child inherently looks up to his or her parents. The parent is a child’s role model, first teacher, and supporter. Children depend on their parents for safety, food, emotional support, and guidance. So, if a parent is an addict, the child will most definitely be affected. An addict will invest all of their time, money, and attention into their drug of choice, rather than their child. Not only will a child feel the lack of love and support, but they’ll also try to make up for it themselves. This is how codependency starts.
A child is not able to make changes to prevent the development of codependency. Children ARE dependents. They do not yet have the life skills needed to live without their parents. And that’s completely normal. But that also means a child cannot escape when forced into the chaos created by an addicted parent. Unfortunately, living in chaos becomes a learned habit. The child will likely grow up to accept the same chaos of substance abuse in adulthood and will be unable to make the changes needed to escape.