Childhood trauma can impact your development and mental health later in life. While there are many forms of emotional trauma, it’s not always a word you associate with the concept of being a child of divorced parents. Sometimes, traumatic experiences that occur in early life result in individuals developing substance abuse and addiction problems in adolescence and adulthood. In fact, studies indicate that experiencing parental divorce or separation as a child increases the odds of initiating drug and alcohol consumption. Find out why the trauma of being a child of divorce increases the risk of addiction and the warning signs to look for in young adults. Understanding the origins of trauma is the first step in a successful recovery.
Warning Signs of Addiction in Young Adults
As parents, it’s critical to remain tuned into what your teen is going through at all times, but this is especially true when you and your spouse are going through a separation or divorce. Your child may be experiencing psychological and emotional effects that they need support to manage. Indications your child is turning to substance abuse to cope with challenging life events can be emotional, behavioral or physical.
Changes in Personality and Mood
Sudden and unexplained changes in your teen’s personality or mood can indicate they’re abusing drugs or alcohol. Signs of these changes include:
- Being withdrawn or depressed
- Lacking motivation
- Being uncommunicative or unusually quiet
- Lacking focus
- Sudden loss of inhibitions
- Unexplained hyperactivity
Changes in Behavior
Behavioral changes that come about suddenly can also indicate your teen or young adult is dealing with a new drug addiction. Signs that might be cause for concern include:
- Absenteeism (school, work, social events)
- Avoiding eye contact
- Breaking curfew
- Lying or making excuses for behavior or unexplained disappearances
- Changes to their coordination (clumsiness, stumbling)
- Periods of hyperactivity followed by periods of low energy
Many physical signs can indicate your child may be engaging in substance use and abuse. Some of the most obvious signs are those you can see. These can be related to their physical hygiene and how well they care for themselves, or it can mean noticing how their physical health develops or deteriorates. Hygiene changes that are signs of addiction and substance abuse include:
- Clothes smelling of smoke
- Unexplained and sudden onset of acne (that they didn’t have previously)
- Track marks, bruises or scabs on their arms
- Lack of attention to maintain their hair
- Lack of oral hygiene
- General disregard for their appearance
Physical changes to their health can also indicate drug addiction, such as:
- More frequent illness
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Sudden change in weight (loss or gain)
- Vomiting or seizures
- Slurred or unintelligible speech
- Excessive perspiration
- Sores in or around the mouth
If your child is suddenly exhibiting some of these signs, consider whether they’re dealing with stress or trauma in their life in an unhealthy way. If they’re engaging in drug abuse, treatment options are available to help them get their life back on track.
What Alcohol Divorce Statistics Say
A Lebanese study published in 2020 found that adolescents whose parents are going through a divorce or separation are more likely to develop hazardous alcohol disorder (HAD) and cigarette dependence. The study cites parental divorce as one of the most commonly recognized adverse events a person can experience during childhood. In part, this is associated with a higher likelihood of alcohol consumption and HAD in early adulthood. According to the study, an increase in alcohol consumption and abuse following parental divorce occurs for a few different reasons. The primary reason is decreased parental supervision and less efficient parenting. While the parents are busy solving their own problems and making necessary arrangements, the child typically receives less attention, providing more opportunities for outings with different crowds of peers. Children hanging out with people their parents don’t know may gain increased access to alcohol. The study indicates that children who are less dependent on their parents are less likely to be as affected by addiction due to divorce. Looking at children of divorce statistics, another study found that adolescents whose parents experienced divorce were 11% more likely to have consumed an alcohol drink than their peers who weren’t children of divorce. The study concluded that divorce and separation by the parents had an impact on a child’s drinking behavior, given that 92.7% of study participants hadn’t consumed an alcoholic beverage prior to the parental divorce or separation.
Protecting Your Children During Divorce or Separation
When dealing with a divorce or separation as a parent, you should take steps to protect your child from feeling the emotional effects of the situation. While they’re certainly going to experience an adjustment period, there are ways to make the situation less traumatic to reduce the likelihood that your teen or adolescent will engage in alcohol or drug abuse to cope.
- Avoid criticizing your former partner in front of your child. They might see parts of your spouse in themselves and find comments you make against your ex-partner hurtful.
- Leave them out of your communications with your ex. Don’t use your child to relay messages; maintain a mature line of communication with your partner about your parenting as necessary.
- Provide reassurance that you both love your kids and there are no negative feelings towards them or because of them.
- Put your children’s interests above your own interests and your emotions. Prioritize speaking highly of their other parent, regardless of how you feel about them in the moment.
- Don’t fight or argue in front of your child; make an effort to continue modeling good communication skills and respect for them as an example of what a healthy relationship looks like in all its forms.
- Try to keep life as normal for them as possible. If it’s possible for them to continue attending the same school and maintain a primary residence in the same home they’ve been living in, this can reduce the level of upheaval they feel due to the divorce.
The Road to Recovery
Conscientious parenting can help minimize the psychological effects of divorce on children. However, if your teen or adolescent is exhibiting signs of substance abuse during a stressful or difficult time for your family, it’s important to get them help right away. Programs are available through facilities like FHE Health in Florida to support individuals who are detoxing from drugs and alcohol or looking for assistance in changing their habits. Whether your loved one needs inpatient or outpatient treatment, our team of counselors is standing by to take your call. Contact us today at (833) 596-3502 to learn about recovery options.