Alcohol addiction is capable of being a major influence on both the addict and their loved ones. With over 15 million adults experiencing AUD (alcohol use disorder), this means several million more struggle with family members suffering from alcoholism.
Many of those millions are likely young children growing up in fear and confusion of their parents’ behavior. They are conditioned to look up to parents for support, love, and care; yet, they may have trouble finding just that with a parent who drinks regularly, making them lethargic, neglectful, or even aggressive and abusive.
Living in a dangerous and unhealthy environment can condition children into unhealthy habits and behaviors growing up. Maybe they lack trust in people, isolate themselves, lash out, or even adopt the same drinking habits as their parents. After all, they may not know better.
It should go without saying that abusing alcohol can create a rift in a parent-child relationship that, sadly, is not uncommon. These are just a few of the effects of growing up as a child with alcoholic parents.
The Alcoholic Parent
Drinking alcohol in a family environment is not inherently bad; in fact, drinking alcohol responsibly and educating your child about it can provide them with healthy examples. An adult who abuses alcohol on a regular basis, however, can be negligent and set a poor example.
Alcoholic parents tend to be neglectful, sometimes disappearing for extended periods of time. They may also have trouble paying bills on time—typically spending too much money on alcohol. They will also typically mistreat or abuse their children or spouse under the effects of alcohol, or even get in legal trouble, such as driving drunk.
This makes alcoholic parents typically poor role models for children and can make for a difficult life growing up.
Effects on Living
With the common neglect of alcoholic parents, children tend to be left alone and mistreated. This puts additional strain on the other parent or even older siblings, who act as a parental figure for younger siblings in their place. The stress can also lead to divorce between parents, creating a lack of stability and entirely new problems that a child has to handle.
However, parents who do not divorce but fail to address the alcohol problem can make the situation even worse. First, alcohol abuse becomes normalized; children begin to think that drinking so much alcohol is normal when problems arise. They might even begin to abuse it and other drugs themselves later in life.
A life with an alcoholic parent also tends to be filled with broken promises, poor psychological and physical treatment, and dishonesty. This can ultimately lead to trust issues not only with their parents but with friends or even potential life partners in the future. This lack of trust can also tie into common feelings of needing approval, praise, and constantly fearing abandonment.
Finally, a child growing up with an alcoholic parent tends to struggle with poor self-esteem. A lack of stability in the family makes them feel inadequate to their peers or believe the verbal abuse from an alcoholic parent. For many children, this can develop feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation in the future.
What a Child Needs
Helping both an alcoholic parent and their victims is difficult but crucial to repair relationships and livelihoods. More than anything, a child needs a safe and healthy environment, with or without the parent. But in recovery, there are other things a child needs.
While away from a recovering parent, a child needs to positive role model in recovery. This can be another parent, a family member, or a professional counselor; someone a person a victim can be openly honest with, discuss their feelings and struggles, and gain inspiration from.
There are also family recovery groups for alcoholics to recover both from their addiction and with their family. Here, families can speak honestly and work on exercises for more healthy interactions. By healing together, a family can work to repair their relationships once more.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, contact a local Treatment & Rehab alternative in Tennessee. You might be interested in Discovery Place’s own treatment center alternatives, such as our 30 Day Residential Addiction Recovery Program or our Long Term Recovery Program in Burns, Tennessee. Call us for a free consultation at 1-800-725-0922.