Helping Children of Alcoholic Parents

This could be related in part to the behavior issues seen among children of parents with an AUD. Growing up with a parent who has an alcohol use disorder can change how an adult child interacts with others. It can cause problems in their relationships with friends, family members, and romantic partners. Just because a person grew up living under the effects of parental alcoholism does not mean they cannot thrive in adulthood.

alcoholic parent trauma

Because as a child life felt out of control and unpredictable, as an adult you try to control everyone and everything that feels out of control (which is a lot). You struggle to express yourself, subconsciously remembering how unsafe it was to speak up in your family. When a parent has an alcohol use disorder, it’s not the child’s responsibility to get the parent into alcohol Facts About Aging and Alcohol National Institute on Aging treatment. However, other adults can certainly step in to encourage the parent to seek treatment. If an underage child is suffering from abuse or neglect, it’s essential to report this to a family member, teacher, or law enforcement officer. It will then be the responsibility of these adults to convince the mother or father to seek help and ensure the safety of the child.

Ways of Confronting an Alcoholic Parent

And sadly, effects of alcoholism on children can even include trauma, PTSD, and other difficult mental health conditions. A person who is hypervigilant experiences an increased state of awareness that causes sensitivity to surroundings. This attentiveness can be excessive and may distract in work environments, family life, and other relationships. Knowing all the possible dangers is important to a hypervigilant person, even though these dangers may not be real.

Experiencing these behaviors from a parent can also wear down your self-worth over time. Consequently, you might become more sensitive to criticism and rejection and have a harder time standing up for yourself. Conversely, Peifer notes that some children who grow up in these environments may become more attention-seeking in order to fulfill the needs their parents couldn’t meet. They might eventually form unstable or unhealthy attachments to others, partially because these bonds feel familiar.

Internal and External Behavior Issues

In addition to the higher rate of selecting an alcoholic partner, ACOAs are also more likely to experience the symptoms of trauma. Dr. Tian Dayton, a clinical psychologist, reports the impact of this trauma on a child and how the environment in which these children grow up directly reflects the major factors contributing to PTSD. These factors include the feeling of being unable to escape from the pain, being at risk in the family, and being frightened in a place that should be safe. Research has shown that families that maintain certain “rituals,” such as holiday traditions or a Friday night pizza and movie can help mediate the chaos of addiction. Sober parents who are able to provide stability, support and nurturing also help minimize confusion and strengthen children.

As a result of the unstable environment caused by alcoholic parents, children’s mental health and development may suffer. Children of alcoholics may blame themselves for their unmet basic needs, feeling a sense of shame for their uncertain situation. In addition to the basics of food and shelter, children also need stability, consistency, and emotional care in order to thrive. Typically, at a young age, children form an emotional attachment with their caregivers, and this has an influence on their development. The most important emotional attachment for a child is usually their parents. Children learn from their parents how to behave, how to function in life, and how to form other healthy relationships.

You dont outgrow the effects of an alcoholic family when you leave home

An absent parent with an AUD may not provide their child with an accurate perception of themselves, which can cause life-long issues with self-image. Children of alcoholic households, even well after they’re grown, may struggle with confidence, social comparison, positive and/or negative feedback, boundaries, self-doubt, and accepting help. Growing up with 1 or both parents dependent on alcohol can also result in symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adulthood. These symptoms include hypervigilance, need for control, difficulty with emotions, and low self esteem. Even just 1 of these symptoms being present can indicate a history of trauma. Experts highly recommend working with a therapist, particularly one who specializes in trauma or substance use disorders.

  • 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.
  • Even just 1 of these symptoms being present can indicate a history of trauma.

When the parent gives up drinking alcohol, or using drugs there is often a feeling of hope that the problem has been “solved.” However, if the parent relapses the disappointment is intense. These experiences often lead children to a distrust of authority figures or adults in general, with an expectation that they will eventually be let down. According to research from the Journal of Child and Family Studies, growing up with alcoholic parents can lead to children having difficulty developing the ability to emotionally regulate themselves. This is likely due to the alcoholic parents’ inability to provide support and guidance in showing their children how to emotionally regulate.