What About The Kids?
by Gabriella Pinto-Coelho
When addressing addiction and the process of recovery, most people only think about what the addict goes through. After what can be an emotionally draining detox process, they have the rest of their lives to manage recovery. What society often forgets in this picture of addiction, detox, and recovery is the role of the family.
Perhaps most vulnerable to the peripheral effects of addiction are children. Kids of alcoholics often take on roles like “the hero” or the “scapegoat” in order to keep their family afloat. Some kids might choose to keep the substance abuse a secret in order to maintain their family’s image.
School counselors in Frederick County, Maryland are no strangers to this concept. They have created Kids Like Us, a free program to meet the psychological needs of children growing up in homes with family members who have substance abuse problems. Guidance counselors refer students in the Frederick County public school system to the program, which appears to be just what the Frederick community needed. Julie Merchant, Director of KLU, says that they are “pretty much always filled to the capacity that we can handle.”
KLU allows students a place to talk about their struggles in a group, since students are more likely to open up to one another than to adults. As a condition of their participation, students agree to keep all discussions and names confidential. Targeting school-aged children is a smart choice, since fourth grade is when kids begin to understand the concept of addiction, and puberty is when their own risk for addiction rises.
In addition to its function as a support group, KLU also educates children about substance abuse. They teach kids that addiction is a disease separate from the person that they love, and it is no one’s fault. They also empower kids to understand that substance abuse is preventable in their own lives, and they do not have to follow in the same path as their loved one.
To learn more about Kids Like Us, read the article here.