Center City, Minn. (Nov. 24, 2021) –Through the eyes of a child, the winter holidays glow with the anticipation of times filled with games, food and traditions as family and friends gather. Yet, as counselors at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Children's Program know, for some kids—just as for adults—this time of year can also cause anxiety and fear, especially in families affected by addiction.
For years, the Children's Program has operated a holiday hotline for alumni of the program to reach caring adults who provide an understanding ear. At its 15 clinical sites around the U.S., Hazelden Betty Ford often sees an increase in readmission rates during the last two months of the year—spurred by factors such as the strain of the holidays, insurance deductibles, and the promise of the New Year—followed by an increase in overall admissions after the holidays.
Worrying about parties and if their loved one will drink too much or use drugs can consume a child's mind and take the fun out of what should be a joyous occasion, says Helene Photias, national executive director of the Children's Program. These worries are natural for a child who has experienced the hurt of a loved one's addiction and are heightened during holidays when alcohol, drugs and addiction are waiting in the wings.
A conversation between a child and their adult caregiver to confront these worries before the start of the holiday season can help to decrease the anxiety and fear, says Photias. "Let kids know that it is okay to have these feelings, that they are not alone—perhaps you share some of the same concerns—and that it is always okay to talk about your feelings with someone you trust and who cares about you," she suggested.
Photias emphasized that healthy actions and consistency—not promises—help children to feel safe. Children will find it comforting to know that their adult will use the support of friends, sponsors and meetings to stay healthy and sober. "And if your child is spending time with others during the holiday and you are unsure of a grown-up's sobriety, discuss your kid's concerns and help them set up a safety plan if necessary," said Photias, adding, "Empower your child to reach our for help."
The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation website offers many resources for the holidays:
The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As the nation's leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health care for adults and youth, the Foundation has treatment centers and telehealth services nationwide as well as a network of collaborators throughout health care. Through charitable support and a commitment to innovation, the Foundation is able to continually enhance care, research, programs and services, and help more people. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in its services and throughout the organization, which also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction. Learn more at HazeldenBettyFord.org and on Twitter.