Claudia Black, Ph.D. and national expert on the Family Disease of Addiction, contends that most children in chemically dependent homes are often overlooked and underserved by school counselors and family service agencies, and even the juvenile justice system. Why?
One of the skills they have learned is to “fly under the radar.” They mask their pain using deeply developed defense systems in reaction to the unpredictable environments that often predominate the home affected by addiction. Black has named these survivor roles in her book, It Will Never Happen to Me – Growing Up with Addiction as Youngsters, Adolescents, and Adults. In pondering them, we may find they fit our children, and even ourselves.
Black’s work challenges us to consider survival scripts. She asks us to examine how you may have masked your pain as a child. You may recognize what your own children have done in an attempt to keep their family illness bearable, or at least hidden. She highlights how kids adapt in an attempt to re-stabilize the family system. These creative, although somewhat predictable, responses are employed to make life easier, and less painful.
Family systems seek homeostasis. They long to experience consistency, predictability, and emotional safety. Children develop roles to help their basic needs get met. Black categorizes those roles as follows:
- The Responsible child or “family hero”
- The Placater or “people pleaser”
- The Scapegoat or “acting out one”
- The Adjuster or “lost child”
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