How Alcoholic Parents Affect Their Children
One in five adult Americans grew up with an alcoholic parent when they were a child. Studies show that children of alcoholics have a greater risk of developing psychological issues, and are at a high risk of developing a dependency on alcohol or drugs. Research has shown that alcoholism runs in families, a child with alcoholic parents is four times as likely to become an alcoholic themselves. Verbal and physical abuse as well as neglect is more common in homes with alcoholic parents. A child who grows up with an alcoholic parent may suffer from some of the following issues:
Depression: The child may feel alone and hopeless.
Guilt: The child may believe they are the reason for their parents drinking. They feel guilty for causing certain issues that are going on in the home.
Embarrassment: The child may feel embarrassed about the actions of their parents. They may avoid inviting friends over the home and going out in social situations in fear of their parent being exposed. This causes isolation and shame.
Anger: The child may feel intense anger toward the alcoholic in the family. They may harbor resentments and display negative behaviors due to their anger. In some instances, the non-alcoholic parents may receive more of the anger from the child.
Confusion: The alcoholic parent may display rapid changes in emotion. They may act differently when they are drinking then when they are not. The child can receive mixed signals becoming confused on the relationship they have with their parents.
The children of alcoholics often try to keep their parent’s problem a secret. They can become resentful and ashamed of what is going on in their life at home. They may try to overcompensate in work or at school by overachieving. This allows a child to get out of themselves by focusing their energies elsewhere. While some of these children look like they are handling their parent’s alcoholism well at a young age, the psychological effects of their parent’s alcoholism may show up later in life. It is recommended that the children of alcoholics seek help from educational programs or fellowships that cater to their situations. Alateen and Al-Anon are fellowships of men and women whom are not alcoholics but grow up around alcoholism. These fellowships help individuals to deal with the issues they face at home. At these fellowship meetings a child of an alcoholic can connect with multiple other children of alcoholics who have been through the same experiences. They can share their experience and hope in order to help another person. Family therapy may also be a good option for parents and their children to begin healing.