Alcoholic Parent

How to Help an Alcoholic Parent?

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a severe substance use disorder due to excessive drinking habits. 1 Also called alcohol use disorder, alcoholism occurs when the body becomes dependent on alcohol, which stems from its repetitive and excessive use. Sometimes, the exact reason for alcohol use disorder is unknown.2

Alcohol acts as a CNS depressant and can inhibit the action of several brain centers responsible for proper judgment, mood, memory, speech, and motor skills. Alcohol also induces increased forgetfulness, poor balance, and trouble speaking coherently. 

Alcoholic Parent

Why Do People Drink? 

There are many reasons why people drink, and some are healthier than others. The most common reasons for alcohol consumption include:

  • Stress relief
  • Peer pressure
  • As a coping mechanism
  • As a form of socialization or fun
  • For religious purposes

While it’s normal for many to drink on occasion, binge drinking or routine alcohol consumption can pose serious risks to your physical and mental health. Moderation is the key to developing a healthy relationship with alcohol.

Warning Signs of Alcoholism 

Alcoholism is one of the world’s most significant risk factors for premature death. It is vital to recognize the warning signs of alcoholism to understand how to deal with an alcoholic parent. These changes may manifest in many ways. 3

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Excessive Drinking

This behavior is characterized as more than 15 drinks a week for men and 8 drinks weekly for women. Also, binge drinking is characterized by taking 5-4 drinks in 2 hours. A standard drink contains approximately 14 grams of alcohol; this is equivalent to 12 ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol), and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (40% alcohol). 4

Behavioral Changes

An individual struggling with alcohol abuse may exhibit increased aggression and irritation, persistent sadness, or depression. 5 

Physical Changes

An alcoholic might exhibit physical changes including poor hygiene or self-care, constant intoxication, or regularly smelling like alcohol.

Health Complications from Alcohol Abuse 

Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to chronic and acute health complications such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Memory and learning issues
  • Heart disease 
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Liver diseases
  • Various forms of Cancer (throat, mouth, breast, liver, colon, etc.)
  • Weakened immune system
  • Stroke 
  • Anemia 
  • Lessened bone density
  • Dehydration
  • Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver)
  • Other medical problems (mental health and social problems)

What are the Signs of an Alcoholic Parent?

According to the American Academy of Children & adolescent psychiatry, for every 5 children, 1 child has grown up with an alcoholic parent. Adults with alcoholic parents, on average, experience more emotional issues and abuse when compared to children of non-alcoholics. 6 

Alcoholism is progressive, and the early signs are not always noticeable. Most alcoholic parents try their best to hide it until the condition progresses beyond their control. However, with early recognition of the signs of an alcoholic mother or an alcoholic father, children may be able to offer intervention and know how to help an alcoholic parent.

Is My Parent an Alcoholic?

Before concluding you have an alcoholic father or alcoholic mother, keep an eye out for signs and character traits that might point to alcoholism. Children should carefully consider their level of self-care, drinking habits, and overall emotional state. 

Common signs that a person might have an alcohol-based substance issue include:

  • Blackouts and memory loss
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Excusing drinking and bad behavior
  • Prioritizing drinking over other obligations
  • Isolation from friends and family members

What Is It Like Dealing with an Alcoholic Parent?

Alcoholism and parenting are never a good mix. Parents with alcohol issues are very sensitive and can negatively affect the entire dynamic of the family.

How People May Feel

Learning how to cope with an alcoholic parent can be very difficult, and children of alcoholic parents are likely to feel:

  • Shame, sadness, or anger towards an alcoholic parent
  • Frustration if parent shows no intention to change
  • Insecurity or fear when dealing with an alcoholic parent
  • Concern for the health or safety of the alcoholic parents or siblings

How People May Act

Unawareness of how to deal with an alcoholic parent can often lead to unhealthy emotional development and a possibility of higher incidences of substance use. These children may sometimes act out negatively by: 

  • Withdrawing from friends and other family members
  • Being aggressive towards others
  • Abusing alcohol and other substances
  • Being depressed or exhibiting suicidal behavior
  • Poor academic performance

How Alcoholism Affects Family Life

A family unit can be described as a group of at least two or more people who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption who stay together.7

Studies show that people with an alcohol use disorder are more likely to have a divorce (48.3%) when compared to the general population. This could be due to partner neglect, abuse, or the resulting behavioral and financial changes that accompany battling an addiction. Alcohol use also affects children emotionally and may lead to behavioral issues later in life. 8

Effects of An Alcoholic Father on Daughter and Son

In 2019, statistics showed the rate of alcohol use disorder in men and women to be 7% and 4%, respectively. Meaning that, on average, men, in this case, fathers, are more likely to have an alcohol problem when compared to women.9

How a parent’s drinking affects your child can vary depending on the child’s age. The outcome of having an alcoholic father is manifested as several direct or indirect effects. The direct effects may be seen through bouts of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse and neglect. Indirect effects include: 10  

  • Fewer financial resources
  • Esteem issues
  • The emergence of approval-seeking behaviors
  • Environmental inclination towards substance abuse  

When A Parent Drinks Too Much – What Kids Have to Know?

Apart from the society and people around them, adult children of alcoholic parents are the biggest victims of the action of their parents. 

It is challenging for children to grow up in a home where a caregiver struggles with alcoholism. For adults with alcoholic parents, there are childhood experiences where dealing with an alcoholic parent can increase the impact of dysfunctionality observed throughout life. Properly addressing how to cope with an alcoholic parent depends on the child’s age and how information is processed.

Questions children of alcoholic parents might have include:

Why Does My Mom or Dad Drink So Much?

An alcoholic father or mother may drink to feel better or relax as a coping mechanism for stress, or it could indicate an underlying mental illness. In some instances, it could result from alcohol dependency due to poor drinking habits.

What Does It Feel Like to Drink Alcohol?

Alcohol classifies as substance use and affects a person’s general behavior. Alcohol use feels different for everyone. Generally, an alcoholic parent may feel happy, sad, out of control, angry, or have violent outbursts.

Why Do People Drink So Much When They Know It Will Hurt Them or Others?

Alcohol use severely affects judgment. When coupled with a substance use condition, individuals lose the ability to stop, even in the presence of emotional and physical harm because of changes made in the brain. This invariably leads to withdrawal symptoms and alcohol cravings when alcohol use is reduced or stopped entirely. 

Impact of Alcoholic Parents on Children

Alcohol use disorders can disrupt parent-adolescent relationships and negatively affect the development and adjustment of children in several ways. Being clueless about how to deal with an alcoholic parent can take a psychological toll and manifest as alcoholic parent trauma in both childhood and adulthood, which is why you should be informed. 11

Adults with alcoholic parents are at higher risk of developing alcohol dependence themselves. This is often due to genetic influences, as well as any associated environmental stressors that may lead an individual to cope with alcohol. 

Considerations When Dealing With an Alcoholic Parent

The lives of children and teens with alcoholic parents aren’t easy, and not knowing the steps to take on how to deal with an alcoholic parent can result in feeling helpless. For a start, when dealing with an alcoholic parent, try to:

  1. Open up to someone, especially a professional

  2. Recognize that it isn’t your fault

  3. Understand and identify your emotions

  4. Develop good lifestyle habits


How To Approach A Parent With A Drinking Problem

Broaching the issue of alcoholism or poor drinking behavior is never easy. You can do it alone, or try setting up an intervention with other family members or friends they respect. An alcoholic parent may attempt to avoid the conversation, so picking the right time and words to address the issue is best. 

Tips for Talking to Your Parent

Developing an open and comfortable conversation is essential to properly convey thoughts and concerns about a parent’s unhealthy drinking habits. Try giving them time to process without being judgmental or pushy. 

When addressing an alcoholic parent, try to:

  • Speak in a kind, gentle and sympathetic manner.
  • Avoid getting frustrated or upset with their behaviors or denials.
  • If an alcoholic parent isn’t ready for treatment, don’t force it. Wait it out and try again.
  • Don’t appear disappointed or pessimistic. Instead, show them how supportive you are of their recovery.

How to Be Supportive

Children of alcoholic parents can show support by:

  • Children of alcoholic parents can show support by:
  • Actively researching the best forms of treatment available
  • Making self-care a priority by reminding them to clean up, eat, and sleep well
  • Motivating parents when morale towards recovery is low

What to Avoid

As much as you want to stay helpful and supportive, you should know when to draw the line while helping an alcoholic parent. This decision should also reflect on your approach to them. Generally, try to avoid:

  • Being judgmental and unsympathetic to their struggles
  • Making excuses for their habits or helping fund their behavior
  • Remaining in a physically or emotionally abusive situation
  • Turning to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism

Let Ripple Ranch Help Your Family

Alcohol use disorder can weaken emotional bonds between families. At Ripple Ranch Recovery, our healthcare experts use evidence-based and holistic treatment methods to form a uniquely tailored care plan to meet your recovery needs.

Alcoholic Parent

Help An Alcoholic Parent

Alcohol use disorder is not the end; with the proper treatment, every individual can achieve sobriety. Learning how to deal with an alcoholic parent can be difficult, but anyone can fully recover with the proper support and treatment. You don’t have to do it alone, and it is always best to seek expert care.

If you’re concerned about the habits of an alcoholic parent, start by learning the signs of alcohol use disorder. If these signs verify that you may be dealing with an alcoholic parent, approach them in a calm and non-judgmental manner to offer support while considering treatment options.

Support for Adults with Alcoholic Parents

Children with alcoholic parents tend to have many questions left unanswered. Essential parenting skills that should serve to nurture and provide guidance for children are influenced negatively by substance abuse disorders. 

Living and dealing with an alcoholic parent is challenging, and it helps to be aware of how to cope while seeking treatment options.

Reach Out and Begin Healing

Contact us today for more information on how to help an alcoholic parent, how to cope with alcoholism, and start recovery at Ripple Ranch Recovery.  


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