It is well known that a parent with a drug or alcohol problem can have a negative effect on their family members.

This week we are specifically looking at mothers who use substances and how it affects their children.

Substance abuse by mothers impacts not only their health but those of their children.

Taking substances during pregnancy can lead to a lot of complications including, but not limited to early delivery and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome depending on the substance used.

In most homes a mother is the primary caregiver which is a critical role in the upbringing of children.

If a mother is abusing substances, children will be the ones who ultimately suffer.

This is because a lot of time and money may be spent using substances and therefore children will be neglected.

Furthermore, mothers who abuse substances may have difficulties providing stable, nurturing environments for their children which puts them (children) at risk for impaired physical growth, development, poor school performance, behavioural problems and substance use themselves.

To the child, life may feel chaotic and confusing because the mother may be inconsistent and may not give clear instructions and roles.

Claudia Black, a leading author and researcher regarding the impact of adult substance abuse on children, has written about several unspoken rules in alcoholic homes including, but not limited to, these:

  • Don’t feel. Due to the constant pain of living with a mother abusing substances, a child must “quit feeling” in order to survive.  Children have had few if any opportunities to see emotions expressed appropriately, or used to foster constructive change.
  • Don’t talk. Children of adult substance abusers learn in their families not to talk about a huge part of their reality – the drinking or substance abuse. That which is so evident must not be spoken aloud. There is often an unspoken hope that, if no one mentions the drinking, it won’t happen again. There is also no good time to talk. It is impossible to talk when a parent is drunk; but when that parent is sober, everyone wants to forget.
  • Don’t trust. In substance abuse families, promises are often forgotten, celebrations cancelled and adults’ moods unpredictable. As a result, children learn not to count on others and often have a hard time believing that others can care enough to follow through on their commitments.

If you think that you might be dealing with a substance abuse issue, or if you have a friend or family member who does, we encourage you to seek help. For some, it can mean the difference between life and death.

You can find BOSASNet on Facebook, visit us on, or call us on 3959119 or 72659891 for more information.

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