According to a publication through Johns Hopkins Medicine, more than 20 million Americans age 12 or older have a substance abuse problem. People with addictions may spend up to 50 percent of their income on drugs or alcohol, even as much as $1,200 per day, according to Addiction Group. When factoring these numbers in with the other impacts of substance abuse on a marriage, it becomes easier to understand why many marriages to spouses with substance abuse problems end in divorce. However, parents dealing with divorce and substance abuse must also consider how the divorce may affect their children and whether they may also develop a substance abuse problem. If you are considering divorce because of substance abuse or for other reasons, consider contacting an experienced Denver divorce lawyer at the Colorado Divorce Law Group by calling (720) 593-6442 to schedule a free consultation.
There is no such thing as the perfect time for divorce, nor is there a perfect age for a child to be when his or her parents’ divorce. Whether the child is an infant, an adolescent, or an adult, the child will likely feel some impact from the separation. However, the following factors can influence how a child may react when his or her parents are divorced:
The child’s ability to handle stress and the child’s age and developmental level can also influence the child’s reaction to the parents’ divorce. If a couple has multiple children, they should consider that each child may have a different reaction due to personality differences, ability to handle stress, and differences in age and development.
Divorce and substance abuse have a closer connection than many people are comfortable acknowledging. The National Library of Medicine reports one study of former or current alcohol users between the ages of 18 and 39, which found that nearly 42 percent had parents who divorced during the user’s childhood. The same study also found that the average age of first alcohol use was 14. Another National Library of Medicine study of teenagers found that those whose parents were divorced had a higher rate of substance use by age 13.
Another consideration that many parents may not realize is that teenagers often feel their parents’ impending divorce years before their parents decide to separate. These teenagers often begin using drugs or alcohol as many as two to four years before their parents split. If parents know that their marriage is struggling, they may want to begin talking to their children sooner rather than later to encourage their children to find healthier coping mechanisms.
There are several protective factors, things that parents can do to reduce risk factors, that might keep a child from using drugs or alcohol. Divorce and substance abuse affect the entire family, so knowing how to reduce the risk and what to watch for is important. There are three protective factors that may be more beneficial than others.
People do not just wake up one morning with addictions. Substance abuse often starts small and grows into something much bigger over time. For some, substance abuse begins by using addictive illegal or prescription drugs for recreational purposes. For others, the habit may begin by taking prescription medication for legitimate reasons and gradually beginning to abuse the medication. Some substance abuse problems come from seeking to be intoxicated with every use, leading to more and more use of the substance each time. Some addictions begin because the individual is trying to self-medicate an injury or a mental illness.
The initial use of a substance may simply be experimental or an attempt to fit in with friends who also use the substance. What often happens is that the user discovers that the substance numbs uncomfortable feelings of resentment, anger, frustration, pain, sadness, or shame. Parents can attempt to prevent their children from using drugs or alcohol by giving them other outlets for their feelings, such as talking to a therapist and being involved in positive activities. Parents can also pay careful attention to any prescriptions for their child, such as how often they refill the prescription, how often they take the medication, and the dosage.
Peer pressure does not disappear when minors become adults. However, the saying goes that people become most like those they spend the most time with, and that can apply strongly to adolescents who are figuring out who they are. This means that, if a child or teenager is spending time with people who use or abuse substances, the chances that the child or teenager will also use or abuse those same substances increases.
Parents can help prevent this by getting to know their children’s friends and encouraging their children to spend time with people who have healthy habits and do not pressure them to use drugs or alcohol. Encourage healthy relationships with positive influences and limit time spent with those who may make substance use look acceptable. If your spouse has a substance abuse habit that you want to protect your child from, a lawyer from the Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to help.
Parents who divorced because the other parent has or had a substance abuse habit should know and understand the risk factors. Mental illness and addiction issues can both be genetic, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The closer the genetic relationship, such as parents or siblings, the greater the chances of inheriting the mental illness or addiction. When parents acknowledge their child’s risk factors, they can take steps to mitigate them.
While the three factors above may be the most important, to help their children avoid drug and alcohol use or abuse, parents should also consider these two factors:
Regardless of age, children will be affected by their parents’ divorce. There is no way to avoid impacting a child by divorce, but it is possible to reduce those effects and avoid connecting divorce and substance abuse for your children. Consider the following ideas:
You may have many reasons to be concerned about divorce and substance abuse, from having a family history of substance abuse to knowing that some kids simply turn to this option under peer pressure or stress. If you are considering divorce from a spouse with a substance abuse problem and have concerns about your child’s potential for turning to substance abuse, consider contacting an experienced divorce attorney with the Colorado Divorce Law Group at (720) 593-6442 to schedule a free consultation. They may be able to help you find local Denver resources to protect your child from some of the negative impacts of divorce.