Tough Topics

Talking to Children about Addictions

—Pat Verbal

Pastor Hanson tossed the sleeping bags into the church van as his wife counted heads for the second time. All the campers were raring to go, except Eric who was late as usual. “He’ll probably pull up with half his gear and no breakfast,” said Pastor Hanson. “That’s why I packed a few extras and made him a sandwich,” said Mrs. Hanson, who knew Eric needed camp more than the other children. Eric is one of 24.3 million children (35 percent) in the United States living with a parent who is addicted to alcohol or drugs. He often gets angry because his dad drinks up all their money and his mom lies about everything. Kids like Eric don’t usually trust adults but he and Pastor Hanson became good friends at camp.

Children are warned about addictions in school through programs like D.A.R.E. In third grade they sign commitments to say no to cigarettes, drugs and alcohol. But schools can’t tell children that God sees their fears and can provide a way through their struggles. They need Christian teachers who will spend time building healthy relationships and answering their questions.

Why do parents drink so much when they know it hurts their families?

If a huge grizzly bear attacked your mom who do you think would win the fight? The bear, right! An addiction can be overpowering. It’s a disease that affects a person’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being. Parents fighting addictions feel powerless to quit. They love their children very much but mind-altering chemicals are in control of their lives. They need a lot of help to win the battle.

 

Can children inherit their parent’s addiction?

You can’t inherit a drug addiction in the same way you inherit red hair or blue eyes. You can be born with a tendency toward an addiction due to physical or emotional influences. If a mother uses drugs or alcohol while she is expecting a baby, the infant may be born with the drug in his or her body. Fortunately, with good medical care the baby can grow up healthy.

God created you with the power to choose a life without addictions. It can be a hard choice when friends urge you to drink or smoke. Remember to ask for God’s help when you are tempted. Memorizing James 1:12 will help, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (NKJV)

Can God heal addictions?

Yes! There are many stories of people who have found healing from addictions through their faith in Jesus Christ. Some churches provide support groups to help people start new lives because drugs have consequences. Families also need healing from broken relationships caused by addiction. Read God’s promise of healing in Psalm 103:2-4.

What can children do to protect themselves?

You can’t fix your parent but you can tell the truth about your family’s problem to a trusted adult. You can plan ways to feel safe at home if you become afraid, such as going to a neighbor’s house. You can choose to be happy even if your parent continues to drink or do drugs. When things look the darkest you can trust Jesus, who is the light of your life.

If you have a child like Eric in your class remember that these children are three times more likely to be verbally, physically or sexually abused. As a result, 79 percent of runaway youths report substance abuse at home. One trusted adult makes all the difference to children facing one of the toughest issues in today’s world.

 

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