According to a study performed by U.S. National Library of Medicine, an estimated 18 million people suffer from an alcohol use disorder in the United States. Many of those individuals are parents of children. Attending an addiction treatment program, like the many offered by Vertava Health, can help parents who are struggling with alcoholism get on the path to recovery and prevent their children from experiencing potential lifelong mental and emotional damage.

People who suffer from alcohol use disorders often do not realize the effects that their drinking has on other individuals. And, often, it’s the people who are closest to the person with alcoholism who suffer the most. This can include children and spouses.

Children are incredibly susceptible to parental neglect and influence. For example, a child is more likely to notice and be affected by a parent’s mood swings or schedule changes than other people in the family. This means that growing up with a parent who is actively addicted to alcohol can seriously impact a child’s life and can have implications both while the child young and into adulthood. Taking steps, such as seeking treatment, can help mitigate some of the damage caused by alcoholic parents.

Psychological And Emotional Effects Of Parental Alcoholism On Children

Studies have estimated that nearly 28 million children have one or more parents who struggle with an alcohol use disorder. Children who grow up in an alcoholic home are far more likely to develop alcoholism themselves. This is just one of the many effects that parental alcoholism can have on a child’s life.

Other psychological and emotional effects a child may experience as a result of a parent’s alcoholism include:

  • Parental Neglect — Whether a parent is passed out drunk on a regular basis, forgets school plays and PTA meetings due to drinking, or simply does not provide his or her child with sufficient attention and love, all of these things contribute to the overall feeling of neglect a child may experience in an alcoholic home. This can lead to children behaving in attention-seeking ways in an attempt to get the love and attention they need.
  • Normalization Of Alcohol — When alcohol is readily available or is constantly being drunk in front of a child, he or she will begin to see this behavior as normal. As a result, a child may be significantly more likely to participate in unhealthy drinking as he or she gets older. This can ultimately contribute to the child growing up to develop an alcohol use disorder.
  • Depression — Many children with parents who are alcoholics experience mental health conditions such as depression. This can be influenced by many factors, such as neglect and instability on the parent’s part.
  • Isolation — Being a child of an alcoholic can be a lonely experience. Children may feel like they have no one to talk to about their parent’s behavior. They may also be embarrassed by their parents, causing them to withdraw from friends and other family members. This can lead to isolation, which in turn can contribute to other issues like anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
  • Confusion — Living in an alcoholic household can be incredibly confusing for a child. The parent may act in erratic ways or be unpredictable in terms of a daily routine for the child. Alcoholic parents may also exhibit rapid mood swings that leave children feeling unstable and unsure of what to expect at home.
  • Trust Issues — Many children of alcoholics experience trust issues at a young age. Broken promises and other trust-related behaviors are often thwarted by alcoholic parents, leaving children wary of trusting not only their parents but other people as well.

These are just a few of the many consequences that can result from growing up in an alcoholic home. Each child is different and will interpret and internalize a parent’s alcoholic behavior differently. It’s also important to realize that the effects of living with an alcoholic parent don’t stop once the child reaches adulthood.

How Growing Up With An Alcoholic Parent Can Effect Children Into Adulthood

A person’s childhood can greatly shape his or her adulthood. Stable, loving home environments often lead to children growing up feeling secure and confident in themselves and the world. However, the instability and other negative aspects of growing up with an alcoholic parent can negatively affect a person once he or she reaches adulthood.

A few of the many ways a child of an alcoholic parent may be impacted in adulthood include:

  • Difficulty Forming Relationships — Sons and daughters of alcoholic fathers and mothers often experience dysfunctional relationships at a young age. This is often the result of the alcoholic parent being unavailable or unpredictable in his or her parenting and affection towards a child. As a result, children may grow up not trusting others or not knowing how to let other people get close to them. They may fear relationships with other people because they have been let down in the past.
  • Extreme Self-Judgment — Children of alcoholic parents may grow up second-guessing themselves and wondering whether they are good enough. These beliefs and behaviors can stay with them into adulthood and translate into low self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Fear Of Abandonment — If a child grows up in a home with an alcoholic parent who is emotionally or physically unavailable, the child may develop a fear of abandonment in his or her relationships. This can lead to individuals clinging to unhealthy or toxic behaviors in an attempt to avoid being left alone or abandoned.
  • Attention-Seeking Behavior — People who grow up in an alcoholic home may be more prone to acting in attention-seeking ways. They may go to great lengths to please other people and react badly when they are rejected or criticized.

Perhaps the most significant impact of growing up in an alcoholic home is the increased risk of a child abusing alcohol or drugs in adulthood. This may be as a result of the normalization of substance abuse at a young age or because the child uses drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with the other negative effects caused by an alcoholic parent. Children of alcoholic parents are up to four times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder or other substance addiction than other individuals.

Signs That A Child Is Living With An Alcoholic Parent

Children with alcoholic parents are not often readily willing to discuss their home life and how it is impacting them. However, there are certain signs that may alert others to the fact that a child is living in an alcoholic home.

Potential signs of alcoholism in the home include:

  • trouble in school
  • inability to concentrate
  • difficulty making friends and/or isolation from peers
  • complaints about physical conditions such as headaches or stomachaches
  • delinquent behavior
  • mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety
  • substance abuse and/or addiction
  • aggressive behavior towards others

If a loved one, teacher, or other trusted adult suspects that a child is living in an alcoholic home, it’s important for the adult to help the child seek support and help. Whether or not the alcoholic parent receives treatment, children can greatly benefit from support groups and educational programs regarding alcoholic parents.

Seeking Treatment For An Alcohol Use Disorder

If you or a loved one is struggling with drinking, there are several alcoholism treatment options available. Making the decision to get help for an alcohol use disorder can positively impact not only your own life, but the life of your children and family. The earlier that an alcoholic parent seeks help for his or her addiction, the better off his or her child or children will be.

To learn more about the effects that an alcoholic parent can have on his or her children, contact an Vertava Health’ treatment specialist today.