Kids' Power: Healing Games for Children of Alcoholics
Publish Date: 1989-02-21
Author: Jerry Moe;Don Pohlman
Welcome to Kids' Power. There is hope today for young children of alcoholics. They can and do overcome the smothering effects of an alcoholic home, and they don't have to wait until adulthood to begin this recovery. One of the most devastating illnesses known to mankind, chemical dependency progressively damages all aspects of the afflicted person: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. But this only part of the story. Alcoholism and drug addiction have a profound impact on every member of the family.
Young children are not spared; they can be deeply scarred. All of these children live in a highly chaotic and unpredictable environment, and many are subjected to neglect, physical abuse, verbal violence, inconsistency, broken promises, confusion and role reversals with their parents. Because of these traumas, children of alcoholics are at high risk for becoming juvenile delinquents, dropping out of school, running away, having unwanted pregnancies, committing suicide and developing alcoholism, drug abuse and co-dependency. Not as dramatic, but equally debilitating, are the other traits frequently exhibited by these children, such as compulsive overachieving, stress-related medical problems, difficulty in initiating and maintaining intimate relationships, inability to play and relax, and failure to take good care of self.
The self-perpetuating nature of the problem is obvious. Where does it ever stop? To avoid continuing the family legacy of alcoholism from generation to generation, prevention must involve working with young children of alcoholics - true primary prevention. It is essential to reach these youngsters to spare them from the damaging silence, isolation, pain, shame and embarrassment they endure in their homes. They must learn while they are still young that the disease is not their fault, and they are not alone. The burdens must be lifted from their shoulders.
Most attempts to reach young children of alcoholics have ultimately failed. For every program that thrives many have fallen by the wayside, often because they try to assist youngsters with tools and techniques that are only effective with adults. In a devastating manner parental alcoholism and drug abuse rob children of their childhood. Many kids must grow up way too fast by taking on adult roles and responsibilities. For others, this disease blocks the joy, creativity, spontaneity and wonder of childhood. The time has come to stop treating young children of alcoholics as if they were adults and to start treating them as children. A large part of recovery for children of alcoholics of all ages is getting in touch with that wounded child within. Play helps not only to connect with that child, but also to assist in the healing process.
In the over twenty years that we've been conducting education/support groups for young children of alcoholics, we've stressed four primary goals: first, to help children understand what's happening at home by teaching about chemical dependency; second, to provide a safe and supportive environment for them to freely explore and express their feelings; and third, to teach these children the skills they need to take better care of themselves and stay safe. The final goal is to simply help them be kids.
In our programs young children of alcohol and drug addicted parents can play their way to understanding and health. Specially designed games and activities cover the following areas of critical importance; feelings, the disease of chemical dependency, family, defenses, problem solving and self-esteem.
Each of these areas is represented in this book by a number of games. Most are non-competitive and stress cooperation, trust and teamwork in an atmosphere where everyone wins. Participation in these games fosters bonding, support, laughter and recovery. Games help kids step back and look at situations with safety. They can use characters, posters and other means to express things they wouldn't feel safe expressing any other way. We have kid-tested all of these games and activities with young children (ages 6 to 12) of alcoholics and addicts in a variety of settings including weekly educational/support groups, retreats, camps and workshops. We have been using some of these games for almost twenty years. Some work well with even younger children, and many are effective with adolescents and adults. For each game the appropriate age group is indicated. Each writeup continues with description, example, affirmations and the materials required.