People assume that alcoholism only affects the alcoholic themselves, and dealing with addiction in alcohol is generally not harming anyone else. That is not true. In fact, living in a household where a parent is alcoholic impacts children’s lives in a colossal way.
Unfortunately, the impact of growing up around alcoholism can be so severe that it can last forever. Alcoholism also burdens the people around the alcoholic, especially children. They often carry the wound associated with alcoholic parents even into their adulthood and, worse, into their future family.
According to Steven Gans, MD, “Because alcohol use is normalized in families with alcoholism, children can often struggle to distinguish between good role models and bad ones.”
If children live in an environment with an alcoholic, they might suffer from ongoing and lifetime effects that may impact their behavior, view in life, and mental or emotional state.
Living with an alcoholic adult, especially a parent, can take a heavy toll on children. They may often wonder what their day is going to look like. Children might be anxious regarding what problems might arise and what situation they will go home to after school. Will they be yelled at? Or worse, will their parents harm them?
“Kids do worry,” said Lana Stern, PhD. “There’s a lot of anxiety children experience when they have an alcoholic parent because the children don’t know what to expect at home and if the parent is going to be sober.”
Often, a household with an alcoholic is chaotic and does not feel like home. No children would ever feel comfortable sharing stories about their families or have friends over their house, especially with an alcoholic parent. Most of the time, alcoholics don’t get embarrassed anymore with their drinking habits. They may even possibly drink in front of their children’s visitors, which will lead to more embarrassment.
“Shame is the feeling that you’re bad or wrong and unworthy of love. There are so many things that alcoholic families don’t talk about – to each other and especially to the outside world. These secrets breed shame. When there are things so awful that they can’t be talked about, you feel there is something awful about you and that you’ll be judged and cast away,” wrote Sharon Martin, LCSW.
No children would ever want to grow up in a household with alcoholic parents. It is likely that these children nurse some anger inside them, directed at at their parents, the situation they have, or the impact of alcohol in general.
The children of an alcoholic may feel isolated and alone. This situation is dangerous, especially when they feel like no one understands what they are going through. It may lead to depression which also causes suicidal and harmful thoughts.
Issues Related To Alcoholic Parents
The following are some issues between parents with alcohol addiction and their children.
- Lack of communication
- Little to no structure in the household relationship
- Conflict among family members
- Terrible parenting
- Financial concerns
- Emotional confusion
- Unpredictable personality
- Child abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Physical abuse
- Children’s exposure to alcohol
Helping An Alcoholic Parent
Having a parent with alcohol addiction causes a lot of stress already. However, their children can do some things that will help address their parents’ drinking problem.
- Know what exactly the problem (alcoholism) is.
- Communicate and be honest.
- Support them physically and emotionally.
- Get professional help
- Keep an eye for relapse.
- Help them build good habits.
Children raised by a parent with alcohol addiction are more prone to emotional neglect, psychological problems, behavioral problems, social issues, and emotional stress. Growing up in a home with an alcoholic can be a lonely, scary, and confusing experience. They should be looking up to loving and hardworking parents, not to drunk and problematic parents. Children should be nurtured, especially during their learning stage, and they should not have to live with the unpleasant behaviors that alcohol can cause.