Young children show signs of excessive stress through a wide range of symptoms, including bed wetting, nightmares and uncontrolled crying. As children advance in age, he or she may find forming friendships to be difficult and may display signs of anxiety about attending school. With progressive development in age, such depressive symptoms of hoarding, perfectionism, isolating, shyness and other aspects of debilitating self-consciousness. Due to the emotional and psychological instability stemming from an unstable and dysfunctional home environment, children of people in active addiction often have problems in school.
Children may often mimic their parents in terms of having trouble managing time, inability to express themselves and difficulty establishing relationships with friends and teachers. Due to the added difficulty in school, these children may have an increased probability of having poor academic success. The inability to focus and study at home, combined with all other concerns, causes an increased risk of failing classes, having to repeat a grade, and eventually dropping out of school all together.
Other behavioral problems may surface, such as lying, fighting and stealing. These self-defeating behaviors stem from the stress of an unstable home environment and the lack of the steady love, care and guidance that children need for healthy development. It becomes difficult and sometimes impossible to predict the mood and behavior of their parents, which is the opposite of the order and routine required by children.
Some children react differently to growing up in such a dysfunctional household. Attempts to control their world by overachieving and overcompensating for the chaos is all too normal. These children may throw themselves into school work, however are denied satisfaction that one would expect with success. The children may be prone to people pleasing as a remedy for self-hatred, despite constant successes in school and activities.
At some fundamental level, some children feel responsible for a parent’s usage of addictive substances and, therefore, attempt to act a certain way to make the using stop. Children often blame themselves for the state of their families and experience guilt and shame that will be carried into adulthood in one form or another, if not properly treated. To escape the devastating chaos and lack of proper love and support, many children of people in active addiction will eventually turn to mood and mind altering substances themselves. To escape their reality, excess stress and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, many children will start using alcohol and drugs to numb the pain.