Sis Wenger, NACoA President/CEO
If a child grows up with addiction, that is probably not the only risk factor in the home. ACEs or adverse childhood experiences tend to cluster; once a home environment is disordered, the risk of witnessing or experiencing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse actually rises dramatically (Anda, et al., 2006).
While addiction, with an emphasis today on opioid addiction, is very much a part of the political and public discourse, the needs of the children hurt by addiction in the family – too often with lifetime consequences – are seldom part of the conversation. The confusion, fear and helplessness present in their daily lives creates a chronic emotional trauma that is unseen and unaddressed in their homes, their schools and their faith communities. It is also too frequently ignored in the family doctor’s office.
Countless adults interact regularly with these children and neither say nor do anything to provide them clarity about their lives or how to find and connect with a safe and caring adult. This is one of the greatest public health problems in our country right in front of the people who could make a difference — if only they would learn how and then to do it. In the meantime, absence from “the conversation” continues to support this hidden human rights problem. We know what to do, but we continue to lack the will to do it, and that is Why COA Awareness Week.
Help is Waiting is the 2017 COA Awareness Week theme. How appropriate! Many caring adults see children who need support and hope, but they don’t have enough understanding about what to do to be effective. Welcome to Help! Thoughout our website, many helpful tools and suggestions are available for those who want to reach out and support a frightened and hurt child or teen nearby. The site also provides additional material specifically for the impacted child. Share them with a child — or a whole class, or your colleagues who work with children. Follow us this week on Facebook and Twitter for additional suggestions.
During COA Awareness Week 2017, February 12 – 18, NACoA urges you to follow the “Arrows to Healing”to break the silence that traps young people and changes their confusion and chronic emotional trauma to hope and resilience. We urge you to imagine the millions of children of alcoholic parents (actually 18.5 million in the US alone), who wait for at least one caring adult to speak up and offer support. You can be that “one.” Just follow the arrows.
Awareness leads to Empathy in a caring adult; Empathy strengthens the ability and the desire to Understand the child’s silent but desperate reality; Understanding motivates towards Action — both to help a child directly and to advocate for appropriate educational support programs for them. Effective Action leads to Support that brings Hope and Healing, making it possible for the children to tap into their own Resilience — and Recovery. And that is Why COA Awareness Week!
Sis Wenger, NACoA President/CEO, has trained about and advocated for children growing up with parental alcoholism and addiction for over 35 years.