Are You Living In It Right Now?
Did you have an Elephant in the Livingroom?The information below was adapted from material developed to help children of alcoholics with the permission of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics.
This is what they tell kids who are growing up in an alcoholics home to help them. Maybe it will help you too? They call them the 7 C’s:
1. I didn’t Cause it.
2. I can’t Cure it.
3. I can’t Control it.
4. I can Care for myself by Communicating my feelings
5. Making healthy Choices, and…
6. By Celebrating myself
Ask your teacher or someone you trust at school, your family doctor or family friend where to find some support for those who live with a hoarder if you feel you need someone to talk to about it.
What can kids do?
Here are a few suggestions for you:
DO talk about how you feel. You can talk with a safe person in your life-maybe a close friend, relative, school counselor, teacher, minister or others. Maybe your school has a private group for kids to talk about things going on their homes (privately)? Ask your teacher about it. Sharing your feelings is not being mean to your family. Talking to someone about your feelings can help you feel less alone.
DO try to get involved doing enjoyable things at school or near where you live-the school band, softball, Boy or Girl Scouts, or others (ask your teacher how to have a “Big Brother or Big Sister”). Doing these types of activities can help you forget about the problems at home, and you could learn new things about yourself and about how other people live their lives.
DO remember that feeling confused is a normal way to feel when you live with a parent that hoards. It’s confusing to be embarrassed and mad at the “mess” at the same time that you love your parent who hoards things.
DO remember to have FUN! Sometimes children who live in a messy home worry so much that they forget how to be “just a kid.” If things are bad at home, don’t let that stop you. Find a way to let yourself have fun.
Your parent is not a bad person; he or she has a problem that makes him or her keep things and not throw them out. Maybe this problem makes them do mean things sometimes or get mad at you. It’s not about you, even though it might seem that way at times.
You can’t control your parent’s hoarding. It is not your fault. Don’t try to throw things away or clean up to make things better. It may only make them angrier. Don’t try to be perfect; you can’t do anything about your parent’s hoarding. You are not the reason why your parent can’t throw anything away. You did not cause the mess.
You are not alone. There are lots of kids just like you. I’ll bet there are some in your school…kids you would never think of might have a parent who can’t throw things away like yours. In fact, we know that there are almost two million homes in our country that are overwhelmed with “things”. If you live in a very, very messy house, you really aren’t alone.
You CAN talk about the problem. Find someone you trust who will talk to you. It could be a teacher or a student assistance counselor if you have a student assistance program at your school. Your teacher can help you find someone who can help. You could also talk to a friend’s parent, a big brother or sister. These are the ‘safe people’ in your life.
Remember these 4 Facts!
Don’t forget to take care of yourself! Check out this cool site to help you do that!
Get a pen pal here!
Play some games!
This letter did not come from the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, but from a grown up daughter of a hoarder:
Hi! Living in a house that was such a mess all the time made me feel angry at my mom a lot. I didn’t know why she couldn’t just keep it clean like my friend’s mom’s! It was so embarrassing! When I cleaned up, my mom would yell at me like I did something bad. I used to cry a lot or be mad. I was usually more mad. I was just trying to be good.
My dad was always mad about the mess. There were so many arguments. I thought if I just cleaned the house up, everything would be good and everyone would be happy.
I didn’t know it back then, but my mom had a problem they call “Hoarding”. There was nothing I could do to change it, she had to see a doctor to get help.
When my mom would pick through the trash and get mad at me for throwing something away that was broken or not any good, I thought I really did something wrong and felt guilty all the time. But I shouldn’t have. It is because of my mom’s hoarding problem that she got mad, I wasn’t really doing anything bad.
So when your mom or dad gets mad at you, remember, it is because he or she has a disorder. It doesn’t make them bad people. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love them as much as possible! But remember, it’s not your fault they have this problem.
-A grown up daughter of a Hoarder
Resources JUST FOR KIDS
A fellowship of young Al-Anon members, usually teenagers, whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. The can help those that live in a messy house with a hoarder, too.
DHHS Kids Page
The Federal Department of Health and Human Services has all kinds of information about children’s health and well being. This site includes puzzles and games as well as serious information about health and illness, the environments, sports and fitness, and the harm caused by smoking and using drugs.
Take this list to the library and ask the librarian if they have any of them. Remember, the books about alcoholism can also apply to hoarding, just change the word in your mind as you are reading:
An Elephant in the Living Room, The Children’s Book, M.H. Typo and J.M. Hastings Minneapolis, MN: Compcare Publications, 1984. A program designed to help children from seven years to early adolescence cope with the problems of living with a problem drinking or drug-abusing parent or sibling.
My Dad loves Me, My Dad has a Disease.by Claudia Black Bainbridge Island, WA: M.A.C. Printing, 1979. Is a “must” book for children ages 5 – 14 from addictive families. Written originally for children of alcoholics, this 3rd edition is revised to reflect other drug addiction as well.
This is an illustrated workbook that explains and portrays addiction from the viewpoint of children who have at least one addicted parent.
Something’s Wrong In My House. Katherine Leiner. New York: Franklin Watts, 1988. About domestic violence and alcoholism and how it affects children. Acknowledges the universal feelings of fear, anger, and hopelessness, and looks for ways to cope.
Think of Wind. Catherine Mercury. Rochester, NY: One Big Press. A simply stated story about how alcoholism impacts families. An excellent resource for teachers and parents to use with young children, and older children to read on their own.