Mental Health and Children

Improving Mental Health in a Family Addiction Situation

People who grow up around addiction learn how to cope with family dysfunction in many ways. Emotionally, a child who lives with a family and tries to cope alone will struggle with mental health issues until someone reaches out and offers help. Learn how mental health can be improved for children and families living in the shadow of addiction.

Emotional Health

Emotional health means a person who is capable of and cares for the self in the process and learns to cope with the present environment. Dysfunctional families have learned from an early age to ignore needs and focus on the adult who has addiction or a disease. Oftentimes one’s own needs are put to the side in order to handle the situation appropriately at the time.

Healthy Families

Healthy families are those which are structured around parents who are in-charge of kids and the children are subordinate to the adults. The healthy design of such a system allows adults to provide structure, guidance and support to children  along with protection when kids are young. Encouraging ten year olds to live alone is difficult since children lack physical, emotional or cognitive maturity to be raised without parents. Survival may happen but thriving will not.

Addiction in the Home

In homes where addiction is present, the family structure is so dysfunctional and broken that parents are not able to provide emotionally, financially or physically for children. Instead children are required to take on emotional roles of adults which denies the concept that addiction runs deep within families. Children do not have the opportunity to learn what it means to be emotionally healthy when growing up without knowing the difference between healthy and dysfunctional role models. The child may be a caretaker for the adults and responsible parties before tending to self needs.

Building Emotional Health and Resilience

The best way to build positive emotional health is to find a way to build resilience for children in homes with addiction. The following may be helpful to get started:

  • Identify the role in a family at the moment. Learn who is responsible for what, how are others taken care of and what is critical to understanding everything that is going on in the household
  • Examine consequences for taking on responsibilities that don’t belong to oneself from an early age
  • Adapt and change beliefs and behaviors according to what is healthy. The hardest part is emotional growth based on what feels awkward at first but is truly natural. Don’t allow the past to dictate the future.

Emotional health and resilience is possible. For children who grow up around addiction, responsibility takes time to learn but it is possible to figure out how to let go, forgive and take care of oneself in the process of moving away from dysfunction and toward emotional health.


The Villa helps families struggling with addiction. If you are part of a family stuck in the cycle of addictive and dysfunctional behaviors, call us. Let us help you find a better path to healing.