Reaching out to children of addiction

Published 9:56 am Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A counselor at Pavillon Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Sunny View works with kids in the Children’s Program. (photo submitted).

When Rachel Haynes-Wood walks into Pavillon Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Sunny View, she knows she will interact with people who are hurting.

Many of those people are children.

“Kids don’t talk about their feelings openly,” Haynes-Wood said. “Our program is designed to give them a safe place to share their emotions in a way they may have never been able to before. Kids are often too ashamed to talk when a parent or another loved one is dealing with addiction.”

Each year during the week of Feb. 14, Children of Alcoholics Week is observed to foster public dialog about ways to help children growing up in households with parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

While Pavillon’s primary goal is to counsel those with an addiction, their free public Children’s Program aims to provide healing to children ages 6-14 years old.

Haynes-Wood is the program’s coordinator. She said the weekend program is held once a month and typically works with no more than six kids at a time.

Haynes-Wood said there are about 2,500 school-aged children enrolled in Polk County schools. She said statistics show one in four children live in homes where substance abuse is present. That could mean about 500-600 local kids are impacted by familial addictions, she said.

“We see the development of a lot of emotional problems because these kids often haven’t had a lot of resources to deal with these really tough things that even adults have trouble dealing with,” Haynes-Wood said.

She said high anxiety and depression show up because kids walk on needles to not trigger their loved ones to drink or use drugs. She said she sees perfectionism and self-esteem issues. She said both boys and girls also often develop negative or codependent relationships. They are also likely to develop behavioral issues in school and suffer from dropping grades, she said.

Haynes-Wood said the Pavillon children’s program works to instill “The Seven Cs.” The Seven Cs, which encourage children to remember that their loved one’s addiction is not there fault and is not something they can cure. She said while the adults might not always get help, the program aims to help the kids know what they can do.

“Definitely if you can get into the family system early on, and treat the whole family, you can break generations of abuse,” she said.

Children of addiction are four times more likely to become an addict, Haynes-Wood said.

“In a family that has started to talk about it early on, they can address it in a much more open way and the child will have a better chance of seeking treatment,” Haynes-Wood said.

For more information, visit www.pavillon.org, e-mail kids@pavillon.org or call 1-800-392-4808. Haynes-Wood stresses that all calls made to Pavillon are confidential.