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How Does Our Alcoholism Affect Our Children?

Childhood is often considered a period for kids to explore and enjoy life as they grow and make amazing memories with those close to them. Sadly, children living in households where a parent (or both parents) struggles with alcohol addiction don’t get a chance to experience what “normal” childhood feels like. 

While it’s easy to assume that a parent’s alcoholism is the drinker’s problem, the truth is, the people it destroys most are those who don’t even drink — our innocent children.

The Damaging Effects of Parental Problem Drinking on Children

All kids need a stable and loving home environment to thrive throughout childhood and become better versions of themselves as they grow. However, when a parent’s harmful drinking is in the picture, a child’s desire to grow up in such an environment becomes far-fetched.  

In truth, no one experiences a great deal of suffering than children living with alcoholic parents, as they are the most vulnerable in such a household. They witness the disastrous nature of alcoholism first-hand, which leaves them with emotional scars that may take years — or never — to get over.  

In most cases, the childhood experiences of kids living in homes with an alcoholic parent are defined by fear, confusion, loneliness and chaos. This illness robs children of the chance to experience what it’s like growing up in healthy family dynamics.  

At first, everything may seem normal to them. For instance, a child may assume that all children take cover when an alcoholic parent comes home drunk. Or that handling age-inappropriate responsibilities when a parent is intoxicated is what all kids do. This is the life a child grows up knowing is normal until they spend more time with their peers. 

As they get to hear other children’s family experiences, that’s when they’ll realise their home environment is far from healthy. It doesn’t take long before psychological distress takes hold of a child raised in an alcoholic home. As a parent, being aware of how your alcohol addiction affects your children and making the bold decision to commit to detoxification and rehabilitation will transform your life and the lives of your kids who depend on you for safety and comfort. 

Undergoing a medically-supervised detox process, similar to that offered by UK Home Detox, will jumpstart your recovery from this illness. Detox will cleanse your body from the alcohol toxins and enable you to break free from the physical dependence that your body has formed on this substance. Through rehab, you’ll find the much-needed support and learn life-long skills to change your lifestyle and achieve alcohol abstinence for the long term.   

Children of alcoholic parents are vulnerable to mental health disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder at an early age. The reason being, they go through a rollercoaster of emotions as they struggle to cope with their alcoholic parent’s hostile actions. 

Here are some of these overwhelming emotions they endure:

  • They carry feelings of guilt and anger

Many times, a child will blame themself for their parent’s problem drinking. Children of alcoholic parents are highly critical of who they are and often feel there’s something they should change about themselves to fix the situation. Your child will easily believe that their shortcomings are to blame for your harmful drinking habits. 

The constant self-doubt can lead to mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Aside from developing anger towards the alcoholic parent, a child may frequently lash out at the non-alcoholic parent for not trying to get everything under control.

  • They’re burdened by shame and embarrassment

In a family unit where parental problem drinking is present, denial and secrecy thrive. Children get the message that they shouldn’t let anyone know what’s happening at home.  

They are taught to remain quiet and not leak out any of these “family secrets”. Bottling feelings puts a child in a position of helplessness. They might eventually develop suicidal thoughts and depressive symptoms.

  • They feel unwanted

Nothing hurts a child more than feeling neglected and unloved by the person they look up to. Sadly, this is often the situation for children living with parents caught up in the grips of alcoholism. If you suffer from this illness, you’re likely to prioritise drinking over everything else, including spending time with your child. 

When this happens, your child will feel that they no longer matter. Not having the privilege of building a strong emotional connection with you puts them at risk of depression. You may often fail to honour your word, leading to your child battling trust issues. 

When intoxicated, you might act out of impulse and expose your child to abuse. You’ll further affect your child’s self-worth and increase their likelihood of suffering from conditions like PTSD.

  • They live in a state of confusion and fear

If you’re living in active alcohol addiction, your child will struggle to make sense of why you behave the way they do. Their daily routine becomes unpredictable because they don’t know what the next situation at home will be. They may witness verbal and physical exchanges between you and the sober parent, and they’ll end up being fearful of everything and everyone around them. 

Children are also likely to struggle with thoughts that the alcoholic parent will someday abandon them or pass away. These circumstances and assumptions can make a child vulnerable to complex mental health issues. The mental health problems can persist throughout their adult years because a child’s past shapes their adult life.

Parental Problem Drinking: Final Thoughts

Being raised in an alcoholic household is hard for any child. It denies them the opportunity to live fulfilling lives as every child should and exposes them to a myriad of psychological problems. 

Alcohol addiction worsens if you don’t receive professional help early enough. When you do, you’ll save your children from a destructive future, and transform your home environment. Entering treatment is also a life-changing opportunity for you to serve as a positive role model in recovery. You’ll inspire your children to believe that anyone can defeat this addiction.

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