Often I am asked the question, ” Why do so many kids today suffer from anxiety ?” There is no easy answer to this question but there are many more questions that we need to ask. In particular, “What is it that appears to be causing such an increase in child and adolescent anxiety? Is it related to social media? Are we over pathologizing what may be normal reactions to stressful situations in our environment. According to Dr Stan Kutcher, a leading psychiatrist from Dalhousie University, “anxiety is a gift we have inherited from our ancestors to protect us from threat and to kick-start ambition; to fight it we have to face it.” In order to “face it” we need to first of all understand what is happening and then respond to it in a manner which will allow us to maximize the outcome.
In other words we can use the anxiety or stress, to benefit us in our day-to-day functioning. If we see it as a gift, we respond from a totally different repertoire or mindset than if we see it as a threat. A gift is something positive, something we welcome, something that may make things easier for us, or at times may challenge us and help us grow. How can we work with our kids to help them understand and see anxiety as a gift? What are some strategies that will help them develop a different mindset? Additionally, what part does social media play and are we, as parents, educators, and counsellors, contributing to the mindset of threat or gift? In my next guest post I will explore these very questions and discuss ways to unpack the gift of anxiety.
According to the study done by Jane E Mc Namee and David R Offord in 1991 there are approximately one million children of alcoholics living in Canada. No doubt a lot more today. In the US some stats say one in five children are living with alcoholism.
Children of alcoholics often keep their parents drinking a secret, but teachers and school counsellors can often spot that something is wrong and reach out to these students. Sometimes students show up in our offices sad and scared because mom or dad had been drinking on the weekend and they are feeling helpless and hopeless. Here are some signs that children may be living with alcoholism.
As school counsellors we can identify these children using CAST Children of Alcoholics Screening Test. You as a School Counsellor should not underestimate your ability to have a lfe long impact on children who are living with a loved one with an addiction. You may be the first person this child’s life that they have felt safe enough to share what is happening in their life. You may be the one to give them permission to share openly what they have been feeling and going through. This can be life changing.
Children of Alcoholics need to know:
That they are not alone
That pouring out or hiding their parent’s alcohol does not help
That their parents drinking is not their fault (they did not cause it, they can’t control it and they can’t cure it)
That they are not doomed … they can get help and do not have to repeat the pattern themselves (children of alcoholics are at a higher risk for alcoholism and other mental health concerns)
There is help for them (they can talk to you the school counsellor) you care
They can go to Alateen
They do not have to be ashamed (alcoholism is a disease)
Alcoholics can get help
There is hope and help for them and their family
They can learn to be happy and healthy no matter if their parent stops drinking or not
They can survive and thrive
There is hope, no matter what their situation
You may be the one safe person they can turn to make a difference in their lives. What you say and do does matter.
I was so scared at home. I never knew if my dad would be drinking when I got home from school. Actually I never knew what to expect. Mom was always threatening to leave dad and all four of us (my brother and sisters) would often line up at the door to leave, but we never did. None of my teachers ever knew that there was alcoholism in my home. They often told me how lucky I was that I must have had great parents. I guess that was because I behaved so well in school, trying to be the perfect child so no one would find out my secret. I was embarrassed that my dad drank too much and I was also angry a lot. I was angry with both my mom and my dad. Sometimes I was angrier with my non- alcoholic mom because I did not understand why we stayed and put up with the drinking. I saw her reaction to his drinking and that had an impact on me. I would also throw my dad’s alcohol down the sink or hide it around the house so he could not find it. Little did I realize that doing that was making me sick emotionally. I often felt irritable and unreasonable, but I never knew why. I was in denial about alcoholism being in my family. Here is a journal entry I wrote in the first few weeks I decided reluctantly to go to Alateen, because I thought it was their problem, not my problem.
“ I wish I could work out my problems. I hope Alateen will help. Mom really doesn’t care about anyone but herself (at least that what she’s pretending to do). I think she needs me as much as I need her, but how do we solve this problem? I depend on mom and dad. I am not mature. I get mad at every little thing without wanting to. I hope Alateen will help with this too. I would try to help myself if I knew how. I remember thinking about killing myself, but I would never go through with it because I was too scared and I did not want to really.”
I’m so grateful I did not go through with harming myself because Alateen did work. Actually my whole family got help. I learned everything I could about how alcoholism affects families and things slowly, but surely got better and better. I recognize that alcoholism affects everyone in the family each to a different degree. Today I look for the good in everyone and everything. I recognize that I don’t know where I would be today if it were not for Alateen. If you are a teen living with a parent who drinks too much Alateen can help. Reach out!
Children of alcoholics can be resilient and you can help them develop these skills. As a School Counsellor you can be the one and only person that child turns to . You can make a difference!