The Dragon's Youngest Victims: The Impact of Family Substance Use Disorder on Children

When the fierce dragon roared into their homes, the children were terrified.

Some fled into the forest to hide. Some froze  and pretended they were invisible. And some became angry and fought to exhaustion to protect themselves and their families, although they were no match for the terrible beast.

Substance use disorder truly IS a family disease, and children living in homes where one or more of their caregivers suffer from it ARE affected. Not all children are impacted the same way: different temperaments, birth order, and support systems outside the family make a difference. The resources below explore how kids’ development, thinking, and behavior both in and out of school may be affected by the disease.

 

This graphic shows how prevalent substance use disorder is when people are asked about the ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) that they experienced. Most research on ACES, and SUD, shows a significant overlap between SUD and other adverse childhood experiences.

More on ACES research

This short video explains the science behind toxic stress, and why it’s so important to offer children experiencing it supportive buffers. The link below will take you to The Center for the  Developing Child’s resource collection on toxic stress, where you’ll find more videos, research briefs, and deep dives into this topic.

Toxic Stress Guide

 

This infographic from The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University gives a quick overview of the relationship between ACES and toxic stress. Follow the link to access the full downloadable pdf, plus lots of other information about ACES and development.

FAQs: ACES and Toxic Stress

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has published this detailed book on SUD and young children. It includes accessible information about the importance of early childhood in SUD prevention, and many protective factors and interventions that those who work with kids should be aware of.  Free to download as a pdf or ebook!

ECE and SUD Book

Passionate TED Talk about ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. She explains in straightforward terms how experiences of adversity impact brain development and then contribute to a person’s later chances of engaging in risky behaviors, as well as their lifelong physical health.

Read Dr. Harris' book!

 

This free download is an outstanding description of how toxic stress  and trauma impact children, and what the flight/fright/freeze response looks like in a classroom setting…AND ways teachers can respond. Click on the link below for your copy! Note: this could be used with older children, as well.

Survival in School

From our Blog…

It’s a Family Affair: Kids Living with Substance Use Disorder

| Executive funtion, Resilience, Substance use disorder and young children | 3 Comments
After seeing this video (produced as a public service message by the Finnish organization Fragile Childhood), what person in their right mind would even THINK of drinking or drugging excessively…

Let’s Talk: When a Child Grows Up With Addiction

This podcast from nationally-known Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation offers an in-depth discussion of how the disease impacts children and characteristics of a program that builds resilience. Although the focus of this program, like most, is children 7-12, the content is very relevant to younger children, too.

The Betty Ford Children’s Program

This video describes the children’s program at Hazelden Betty Ford, but offers many ideas that will help teachers both understand the impact of the disease on children, and generate ideas for ways they can support children in a strength-based way.