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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Children of Alcoholics: The Eyes Of A Child Mirror A Sad Soul

"A sad soul can kill quicker than a germ." ...John Steinbeck

Someone once said that the "eyes are the window of the soul." Most people have heard this quote, but everyone has a different opinion as to who said it first. It could have been Shakespeare or Leonardo DaVinci, Hamilton, Milton, or then again it might be an old English proverb. The truth is this, it doesn't really matter who said it first or in what form; we all intuitively know the power of looking into a person's eyes, particularly the eyes of a child. We know what a troubled child looks like. We know when a child looks older than their years; you can see it in their eyes. And maybe John Steinbeck offered the best observation, "a sad soul can kill quicker than a germ."

Perhaps Steinbeck was speaking of depression or alcoholism; perhaps he was speaking of one of his own children, John Steinbeck, IV.  John Steinbeck, IV, died in 1991 at the age of 46 and following his death his wife Nancy completed a book her husband had started, The Other Side Of Eden, Life With John Steinbeck. The words on the book jacket begin:
"As the son of a celebrated literary icon, John Steinbeck IV grew up in a privileged world peopled by the literati and the intellectual elite. Sadly, it was also a world of alcoholism, bitter divorce, estrangement, and abuse, on the part of both his mother and father. In this fascinating memoir, the late son and namesake of John Steinbeck writes with great insight and a gift for lyrical expression about his often painful youth."

Children of alcoholics...

Many children live with a disabled parent. In the United States national estimates in 2009 concluded that 6.6 million children or 9.1% of children in the US live with a parent who has a disability. And according to the Through The Looking Glass Organization reviewing information gathered by the American Community Survey (ACS):
"The data presented here identifies five broad categories of parental disability: hearing, vision, mobility, cognitive and daily living activity. These five categories are not mutually exclusive – that is, a parent could be counted in more than one disability category. The ACS data also does not allow further breakdown of those parents with cognitive disability (e.g., those who have a psychiatric disability, intellectual disability or Traumatic Brain Injury)." 
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) states that nearly 17.6 million adults in the United State are alcoholics or have alcohol problems. Extrapolating to determine how many children live with or spend time with these adults is pretty easy. You can do the math. Alcoholism is a disease and is often an impactful disability.  What a child experiences growing up in a household where the parent(s) are suffering from alcoholism can be described as shame filled, physically dangerous, emotionally stressful and even deadly.

Through the "eyes of a child"

Many organizations both in the United States and abroad work tirelessly to protect the children who are living in a home with an alcoholic parent. Research is performed, conferences are held, classes are designed, books are written, associations like National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) exist, and self help groups like Al-Anon all play a part in assisting these children. However, sometimes it is hard to imagine what the life of a child is really like living under these circumstances. Today we offer a Public Service Announcement (PSA) produced by Fragile Childhood, a Finland non-profit organization founded in 1986 to help children who suffer from parental alcohol misuse.

Watch the PSA here:

If you are having trouble viewing this video, you can also see it here.

One final idiom...

Many a parent over the centuries spoke this truism: "Little pitchers have big ears." Simply it means children hear more and understand the world around them better than many adults realize.

If you are aware of a child who is growing up in a world of alcoholism, take some time to reach out to them and for them. Save a life of child...

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