Children of Alcoholics: The Hidden Toll of Alcoholism on Kids
With over ten years of expertise in addiction, I have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of alcoholism on individuals and families. One particularly devastating consequence occurs when a father’s drinking affects his children’s well-being, development, and future relationships. In this post, I will examine some of the ways children are affected by an alcoholic father and provide real-life examples to highlight their severity.
What Are the Effects of Alcoholic Parents on Children? A Closer Look at the Lasting Impact
A parent who has suffered from alcohol or substance abuse issues can have a profound and lasting impact on your life and development. You may have suffered from long-term problems as a result of your parents’ drugs or alcohol abuse behaviours.
Growing up in an abusive home or a chaotic environment can lead to maladaptive traits. These maladaptive traits can cause problems in relationships and adversely affect your psychological mental health, and emotional well-being.
Here’s what you’ll learn
Consider the effects of substance use and alcohol abuse on the health of children and families.
Help you to learn what children of alcoholics should drink and do to protect their own lives the safety
How to manage to get over the effects of growing up in an alcoholic family
How to encourage an alcoholic parent to seek help from alcohol treatment?
Alcoholic Parent with Alcohol or drug problem
It can be difficult to grow up in an alcohol-dependent home. An adult or spouse’s drinking habits can have a cumulative or gradual impact on the relationship and child’s growth. Each family is different, but one doctor asserts that alcohol abuse can have a cumulative or gradual effect on a child’s development. 2
Family members and friends who are alcoholics may exhibit certain patterns of behaviour, behaviour and behaviours, which can be passed on to their children in different ways. Even though every family is unique, you might recognize certain “rules of an alcoholic home” in your own family.
- Rule 1: Do not discuss family problems with anyone. You may have learned that it is wrong to talk about your feelings, concerns or problems with anyone.
- Rule 2: Don’t openly express your emotions. Your feelings might not have been validated in a family where an alcoholic parent is involved. You may also have never been able to talk about them with your family.
- Rule 3: Limit communication with others. You never know what you might get. Therefore, it was important to limit your communication.
- Rule 4: We expect you to be good enough. Sometimes, children believe they are responsible for bad or good things happening. You may have felt that any bad or good thing that happened to you was due to the polarized world you lived in. This led to you learning that being “good” and achieving were key to your safety and parental approval.
- Rule Five: You must work for others, and not yourself. You are not responsible for your own needs or wishes. If you look at yourself as a selfish, self-centred being, then you are selfish.
- Sixth rule: Do as I say and not as I do. Your parent may have displayed negative behaviour, but you were told not to follow their lead. If you were a teenager who drank, your parent might have harshly criticised or punished you.
- Rule 7: Don’t “play” with yourself. You may have felt that you couldn’t let your guard down, or something would happen.
- Rule 8: Avoid conflict. You may have learned from your parents that conflict could lead to an unpredictable response. You learned it was better to avoid conflict or escape it. You may feel guilty if your parents used the conflict as an excuse for drinking.
You may have had to adapt to the restrictions and limits placed upon you in order to survive and be safe. You didn’t develop the ability to make different choices as a child. As a child, you weren’t given the support, resources or opportunity to develop healthier behaviours. This can lead to mental health problems.
Alcohol Addiction: Codependency
3,4 Codependency from addiction is common among people who grew up with addicts or families that have experienced dysfunction from drugs.
Codependent people often believe they are helping the alcoholic by their “helping” behaviour, but in reality, they only perpetuate the addiction. One example of caregiving behaviour is calling in sick for your alcoholic partner or spouse. Although you may feel that you are helping, it only makes the problem worse because you act that the person isn’t responsible for their actions and doesn’t have the responsibility to change. Problems with setting boundaries with an alcoholic parent or partner are another common problem. You may find it difficult to say no to them or feel obliged to help them whenever they need it, regardless of how it affects your life.
What are the Common Characteristics of Children of Alcoholics
You may have been influenced by your own family member, to adopt certain characteristics or a role in order to survive. Research has shown that stereotypical roles are often assumed by children in an alcoholic families. This could include being a victim, rescuer, hero, or caregiver. Although not all research supports these roles, they illustrate the potential developmental paths (and sometimes harmful ones) that children might take in an alcoholic family.
Children of alcoholics may adopt personality traits that are similar to “rescuer” roles. They might feel the need to “fix” and support their families in times of crisis. A child of an alcoholic who is a “caregiver”, needs to ensure that the parent’s needs and take responsibility for any problems (which, in most cases, is not their fault). These roles are simplified expressions and children with alcohol or addiction issues may display a variety of signs.
One of the most common traits of children of alcoholic parents is a sense of anxiety and hyper-responsibility, which means feeling responsible for things beyond your control, such as your parent’s happiness or drinking habits. Hyper-responsibility can develop if the other parent is not taking on the adult caretaker or support role in your family. Others may feel unable to take responsibility if they feel that they have failed to meet their needs or change their circumstances. This fear can lead them to feel deficient and “What’s their point?”
The following are other common traits of adult alcoholism in children who have been raised by alcoholics:
- Unable to trust others or yourself.
- Hypervigilance in social interactions
- Hypersensitivity to comments made by others
- Protect your private communications.
- Perfectionism and high achievement.
- Prioritizing others’ needs above your own.
- Use conflict-resolving techniques such as withdrawal physically or emotionally.
- Feeling distant from anger feelings.
- Unable to express your emotions in a meaningful way
- Avoidance and escapism are strong behaviours.
- Reduced ability to handle negative emotions from others
- Black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing, means you view people and situations as either good or bad.
- Crises are created when there are none.
- Low self-esteem or lack of self-worth.
- Tolerance for poor or inappropriate behaviour by others.
The children of drug and substance use and alcoholics are often left with limited resources and are not taught how to deal with stressors. Many children have been left alone, which can cause them to feel “parentified”. This can lead to problems as the child may not be able to function at the developmental level they are capable of. It shouldn’t be the child’s job to be the parent with a drug problem.
These issues were not yours as a child. However, it is important to recognize that you have the option of changing your behaviour and choosing to act and do things differently as an adult.