The Effect of Alcoholic Parents on Children

As parents, we are sure that you will always want to do the best for your children. And a part of that is considering how your actions may inadvertently hurt them. Alcoholism or simply just heavy alcohol abuse often has an impact on your child.

You may tell your children that it’s wrong to drink in front of them or tell them you drink as a way to relax. Or maybe you even try to hide your drinking from them. At the end of the day, no matter how secretive you are or what you tell them, one day, your children will understand your drinking habits and how it hurts both you and them.

We don’t say this to shame you into not drinking. Instead, we want to help you to look outside of yourself and see that when you have people that are depending on you, alcoholism is much more serious. We are here to provide you with information and help you find help should you decide to improve your life. Find out the effects of alcoholic parents on children and treatment options for alcohol addiction below.

Immediate Effects of Alcoholic Parents on Emotional Health

A young child does not understand what alcohol is and therefore doesn’t understand why you use it or why it makes you act differently. All they see is that your behaviour and personality changes and this could very easily be for the worse. Even if you consider yourself a relaxed, happy drunk, the dramatic personality change can still be incredibly distressing for a child.

It is not uncommon for children to blame themselves for their parent’s alcoholism, which can lead to feelings of guilt and even depression. A child who feels responsible but powerless to change anything will tend to have a very low sense of self-worth and isolate themselves from others.

For example, if a child knows their parent will come home drunk every Saturday, they may avoid having friends over or even going out to play as they feel like they need to be home to look after their parents.

Living with an alcoholic results in a level of responsibility which will likely lead the child to have negative feelings towards you. They may be angry or even scared of you and unsure what to do. These feelings can also worsen if they are also expected to look after a younger sibling alongside their drunk parent.

Explaining why you drink won’t make things much better. In fact, if you say it helps you relax or makes you feel good, you are simply increasing the likelihood of your child experimenting with alcohol at a young age. This can easily lead them to develop an addiction as they age, as children learn habits from their parents and environment. Find out the signs of addiction in teens here.

Long-term Psychological Consequences

Some of the long-term effects of alcoholic parents on children can include the following issues:

  • Anxiety over being around alcohol or how you will act the next time they see you due to a lack of stability.
  • Depression, as they may feel powerless yet responsible for their actions.
  • Insomnia from staying awake to care for yourself or as a result of anxiety.
  • Isolation from peers as they don’t know how to open up about what’s happening at home with other kids. They miss out on the fun because they believe they have responsibilities at home.
  • Relationship issues are common because a lot of toxic behaviour has been normalised to them.

Of course, one of the biggest long-term risks is your child developing an alcohol addiction. Addictions have a genetic link that can be passed down from parent to child. If they don’t learn self-regulation early and how to spot early warning signs, then they could very easily lose their life to alcohol addiction.

The Potential Academic and Social Development Impacts

To develop normally, a child needs to socialise, play, and attend school. But if your alcoholism impacts this, they won’t be given this opportunity.

Instead, they may struggle with academics either because you are not available to take them to school or help them with homework or because they are tired and stressed from looking after a parent with alcoholism, so they can’t concentrate.

At a young age, every day of school massively impacts their development. Missing any of it can very easily lead to huge gaps in their knowledge that they simply can’t make up for. It could be limiting their future options, which is a huge effect of alcoholic parents on children.

Children may also miss learning to socialise and be around children their age. Missing this can lead to severe social anxiety and even a codependent nature.

The Struggles of Adult Children of Alcoholic Parents

Your time with your child is not infinite. If they grow up and realise that you are damaging to be around, they may reduce contact with you. A common effect of alcoholic parents on children is the relationship you have with them once they grow up. Learning how to change yourself now before that happens is so important. We know that you love your children and want the best for them, but right now, they are learning to be adults from you.

All your behaviours, good and bad, shape them into who they will be. This could be another person struggling with alcoholism. Or someone who never leaves you because they believe it’s their job to care for you. Or someone that has a life you are not a part of. It is important to seek alcohol treatment such as alcohol rehab to overcome addiction and avoid negative effects on your children.

Help For Parents with Alcoholism

Family support is key to overcoming alcoholism. Alcoholism treatment is a difficult thing to go through. But losing your child is so much worse. Everything you do is for them, and by looking for treatment for your alcohol use disorder, you are giving them a chance at life.

You are showing them that when you have a problem, you should turn to your doctors and support groups to ask for their help. Only then will you be able to progress and start the journey towards long-term recovery.

At Ocean Recovery, we can help you to overcome your alcohol addiction. We have years of experience helping people to find the treatment they need at a price they can afford. We understand this is hard, but you are doing this to keep your child happy and healthy, so isn’t it all worth it?

If you would like to discuss your treatment options or how you can help a loved one you believe is struggling with an addiction, please call us at 0800 880 7596 or fill out our contact form today.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: August 11, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.