COA/COSA. In this presentation you will receive basic information about alcohol and drug addiction. You will also

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1 In this presentation you will receive basic information about alcohol and drug addiction. You will also hear about the family dynamics of children of alcoholics and other substance abusers and finally we will share some best practices and guidance for effectively working with those students. What is addiction? Addiction is a disease. People who have this disease have lost control over their drinking or drug use and are not able to stop without help. They typically lose control over how they act when they are drunk or using drugs. How does addiction to alcohol or drugs start? No one wants to be a drug addict or an alcoholic but this doesn't stop people from getting addicted. Drugs are basically painkillers. They chemically numb physical or emotional pain and alter the minds perception of reality. Doctors don't know all the reasons why people become addicts. Some people started off as occasional or recreational users and developed an addiction over time. Other people report that they were hooked the first time they drank or used a substance. Some people believe that addiction has genetic links and that addiction can be inherited. Although no scientific research has located a specific gene that is connected to drug addiction or alcoholism, we do know that addiction runs in families. So, addiction may be caused by genes or environmental conditions or combination of both. What does an addict look like? Addicts can be any age any race or nationality or religion. All types of people can become addicts. They can be young or old, male or female, rich or poor. What is COA/COSA? Children Of Alcoholics or Children Of Substance Abusers. These children are a population without a clear definition. They are defined as any child whose parents or parental caregiver uses alcohol or other drugs in such a way that it causes problems in the child's life. The child may no longer be living with the substance abusing parent because of separation, divorce, abandonment, incarceration or death. It's important to realize, that parent does not have to still be actively drinking or using drugs for the child to continue to feel the impact of the substance abuse.

2 How many students are children of alcoholics or children of substance abusers? According to a recent study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, it's estimated that one in four or 17 million children in the US under the age of 18 are living with a parent who is an alcoholic. 9.2 million US children live with a parent or other adult who uses illegal drugs. Children of alcoholics or children of substance abusers face many life challenges. There is a significant correlation between parental addiction and child abuse and neglect cases. These children are three times more likely to be physically or sexually abused and four times more likely to be neglected. They are also six times more likely to witness possible abuse than other children. Children of drug addicted parents are at greater risk for placement outside the home and foster care. In the past few years the state of Idaho has experienced a large increase in the need for foster placements due to the increase of meth addicted parents. Children of drug addicted parents are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety and anger. They're also more likely to have increased physical health problems or behavioral issues. They may be unable to focus on their schoolwork due to the conflicts and tensions at home. Children of addicted parents score lower on tests measuring achievement verbal ability and have greater difficulty with abstract concepts and conceptualization. What is home life like for these children? In families where alcohol or other drugs are being abused behavior is frequently unpredictable and communication is unclear. Family life is characterized by chaos. Structure and rules may be either nonexistent or inconsistent. Children who may not understand that their parent s behavior and mood is determined by the amount of alcohol or other drugs in their bloodstream can feel confused and insecure. They love their parents and worry about them and yet feel angry and hurt that their parents do not love them enough to stop using. Because parents who abuse alcohol or other drugs are more likely to be involved with domestic violence divorce mental illness or legal problems, their ability to parent effectively is

3 severely compromised. In a home affected by parental substance abuse children are often pushed to grow up fast. They are burdened with family responsibilities beyond their years. Often as a coping mechanism these children play out specific rules to balance the family system and to survive. The most common roles played are the hero, the scapegoat, the lost child, the mascot or clown and the caretaker. The role of the hero is typically played by the oldest child. This child is hard-working responsible and approval seeking. The hero can seem almost adult. The role of scapegoat is commonly found in middle children. The scapegoat finds that negative attention is better than no attention at all. Scapegoats act out are defiant and often sullen. Some scapegoats begin using substances themselves at an early age. The role of lost child is played by the child who wants to avoid drawing attention to themselves. The lost child may be super independent and avoid asking for help. The role of the mascot or clown is played by the child who believes that clowning around or being hyperactive or super cute will draw attention away from their family problems. The role of caretaker in the family can also be played by the oldest child. This child may take on the adult role of taking care of the other children in the family, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and other normal parental functions. The caretaker may also become the one that the addict liens on for emotional support. The caretaker is often codependent thus getting their needs met by taking care of others. They feel valued and important in this role. In a dysfunctional family these roles are rigid. Family members are locked into playing these roles and exhibiting the characteristics that come with each role. In a healthy family individuals are allowed to grow, develop and change. In contrast, a dysfunctional family system holds the members to these roles that they played as a child. No matter what role they play in the home, children of alcoholics or substance abusers have learned three dysfunctional family rules: Don t Talk, meaning don't talk about the family including keeping the family secrets especially about substance abuse. Don't Trust, meaning they learn quickly that the parent who is the addict is unpredictable. Thus they learn you cannot trust anyone. Don't Feel, in a home with

4 an addict feelings are denied and lied about. Feelings are not something you express in appropriate ways. Instead the addict has taught the lessons to the family to use substances to avoid feeling anything. Following these three dysfunctional family rules will lead these children to creating their own dysfunctional relationships and families in the future. What can one caring adult do to help support a child of alcoholism or substance abuse? Educators can help support these children by providing a safe, predictable and nurturing environment. Children of alcoholics and substance abusers need to experience caring adult relationships that also hold them to high expectations. They also need to have opportunities to participate in positive activities in the classroom and in afterschool programs. Jerry Moe, a national trainer on working with children of substance abuse families, has the following advice for all educators who work with children of alcoholics and substance abusers; He believes that educators who make it a priority to listen and observe, validate, educate and empower will see resiliency grow in all of these students. By listening to what the children are saying and giving them focused attention with lots of eye contact the student will know that you care. It's important to be observant. Watch for students who follow the dysfunctional family rules of don't talk, don't trust and don't feel. Be aware of facial expressions and body language that doesn't match their words. By providing validation, educators can let the children know that you heard and understood what they are communicating to you. Acknowledge what is said. Ask questions and reflect feelings. Giving students the opportunity in health or PE to be educated about basic information on alcohol and drugs is critical. Accurate information will challenge them to make healthy choices. Finally, educators can empower the child to see that there are safe people that they can turn to for support and guidance both in school and in the community. Help them realize that they can make healthy safe choices for their own life. Refer students to the school counselor to discuss joining a support group where they can learn more about chemical addiction and how it affects families.

5 The seven Cs are the basic core curriculum that all children of alcoholics and substance abuse groups teach. It's important that the students understand that they are not responsible for their parents substance abuse problems. Children need to understand that it is not their responsibility to find a cure or to fix their parent. It's also critical that these children learn that they cannot control another person's behavior. Nothing they do or say will change the addict. It's important that a child of alcoholism and substance abuse learns about self-care. They need to learn to express and communicate feelings in appropriate ways, make healthy choices and finally learn to celebrate who they are as individuals. They can learn that alcoholism and drug dependency is a sickness or disease. They can also learn that they cannot cure or fix a parent s problems. They can realize that they deserve help and support in that they are not alone. They can be empowered that there are safe places and people who can help them and that there is hope. You cannot fix or solve the family dysfunction that one of these children is experiencing. This is not your job. The most important thing that you can do is to create a stable consistent nurturing and safe environment, where the child can feel a sense of belonging. It's also important that if you are aware of any signs of abuse or neglect that you consult with the school counselor, school nurse or school administrator. You can also reinforce these three important principles to each child: 1. The student is not alone. 2. The student is not responsible for the problem and cannot control her parents drinking or drug use. 3. The child is a valuable and worthwhile individual. There are a few other points to be cautious about when working with students who are children of alcoholics or children of substance abusers; it's important not to act embarrassed or uncomfortable when a child askes for help. Remember their most likely breaking the family rule of don't talk when they share with you about their life. It's important not to criticize the child's parents or be overly sympathetic. The student loves their parent and they may stop seeking help if they think by talking with

6 you there getting their parent into trouble. Be confidential with the information and don't make promises that you cannot keep. Do not promise to keep secrets about unsafe illegal or criminal situations. The final caution is, don't try to counsel the child unless you're trained and employed to do so. Instead make a referral to your school counselor. Addiction affects everyone in the family. There are many students in our schools today that face the challenge of growing up in an environment affected by parental substance abuse. The students can learn to be resilient and make their own drug-free choices. They are not without hope. You as an educational staff member can help them become productive drug-free adults by being a consistent caring nurturing and safe person. Thank you for caring about our students!

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