We’ve discussed at length the damage that alcoholism causes. It’s a degenerative brain disease that alters a person’s behavior for the worse and, if left untreated, may turn out fatal. Obviously, these are terrible symptoms that would require rehab for alcoholics in and of themselves. But there are other reasons for an alcoholic to beat back their addiction and regain control of their life—namely, for their sons and daughters.
For a child, having an alcoholic parent is an intensely stressful emotional experience. Kids aren’t prepared to fully understand the trauma of alcoholism. In an uncomfortable situation like this, children usually go to their parents for explanation or comfort. However, in this case, parents are the problem, leaving emotional pain to fester in the child’s mind. We’ve had families come to The Ridge from Kettering, Ohio.
Extremely Common Effects of the Family – A vicious circle
Children may feel guilty about their parents’ drinking habits, assuming they are somehow responsible. Maybe if they were better, they think, their parents wouldn’t have alcohol problems. If an alcoholic parent has moments of lucidity, the swings between loving parent and belligerent drunk can be extremely confusing and make the child unsure which side of their parent they truly are. A child can become fearful and anxious about what their alcoholic parent may do when drunk, and depressed that nothing they do seems to change the situation. Dealing with this can make a child embarrassed of their home life, and even worse, afraid to make close relationships with other people. Therapeutic studies frequently highlight the result of a family enduring this: this leads to long term co-dependence and boundary issues within the family.
In addition to the emotional damage an alcoholic parent causes a child, it also increases the child’s risk for one day developing their own case of alcoholism—children of alcoholics are two to seven times more likely than the general population to become alcoholics themselves; and again, other behavioural and mental well being hindrances that can live on throughout the Alcoholic’s family (e.g. healthy boundaries with others and in life, co-dependence).
Our treatment programs support families and loved ones as well as patients. We provide family education, counseling and one-on-one sessions. Click here to learn more.
Research from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol states that alcoholism is least prevalent among children whose parents have a close, loving relationship with them and each other. It seems like a given that a parent would have a close, positive relationship with their child, but drinking throws a wrench into the works. Alcoholism changes a person’s behavior so much that it simply prevents this level of closeness from occurring, even between parents and children. It’s also been shown that a parent’s feelings toward alcohol heavily informs their child’s attitude. That is, an alcoholic parent who drinks every day and frequently binges is providing a poor example for their child, and one they’re unfortunately all too likely to emulate.
Some children see the damage alcohol is causing an alcoholic parent and pledge never to drink, but too many others fall down the same road to addiction as their parents. Rehab for alcoholics is the best option for parents with drinking problems. If the damage alcohol does to an alcoholic’s body and brain doesn’t motivate them to get treatment, perhaps the damage it could do to their children will.