How to Deal With an Alcoholic Parent

Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

How to Deal With an Alcoholic Parent

Table of Contents

Expert Advice On Dealing With An Alcoholic Parent

According to a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an estimated 29.5 million Americans aged 12 and above had an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in 2021. A major part of statistics is adults with kids around or in the position of a parent. Alcohol abuse is an difficult problem, and it seriously affect their families.

Although alcohol abuse can be a devastating situation to be in, regardless of the responsibilities undertaken by the patient, however, if they are performing the role of a parent, the effects can be even more substantial. Alcohol addiction in a household can have far-reaching consequences for children of all ages.

Having some expert advice on how to deal with an alcoholic parent that may help you and your family through these difficult times is important.

What is It Like To Live With A Parent Who Has An Alcohol Or Substance Use Problem?

What Is It Like To Live With A Parent Who Has An Alcohol Or Substance Use Problem

Living with a parent who is an alcoholic or has other substance use problems can be difficult for both the parents and their children. It’s often hard to understand why your parent is acting or behaving in such a way, and it can be very confusing. You may feel angry, scared, helpless, ashamed, or confused.

You must try to talk to your parent about their problem and let them know that you are there for them if they need help. It’s also important to remember that your parent’s behavior is not a reflection of you; it’s due to the drug abuse problem.

It can be helpful to talk to someone about your feelings and experiences to help you process and cope with the situation. You may want to contact a school counselor, therapist, or trusted adult for support. Helplines are available that provide resources and support for children of alcoholics or those dealing with substance use problems.

How Do Most People Feel?

Many people who have grown up with alcoholic parents say it left them feeling hurt, angry, or guilty. It can also be a difficult experience to talk about due to feelings of shame and embarrassment.

Others report feeling isolated and lonely, as their parent’s problem often gets in the way of making friends or participating in activities. It can be difficult to relate to other children when your home life differs from than theirs.

It’s also common for children of alcoholics to feel huge responsibility for their parent’s drinking. They often take on the role of caregiver to protect them from harm or intervene when they are out of control. This can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues in children of alcoholic parents.

How Do Most People Act?

How Do Most People Act

It’s common for children of alcoholics to develop certain behaviors or coping strategies to survive the situation. Studies show many adolescents will become people pleasers, developing a false sense of control so they won’t have to deal with the chaos and disorder at home.

In some cases, children may also act out or rebel against authority to express their frustrations and pent-up anger. This type of behavior can be especially dangerous if it leads to criminal or anti-social activities, so it’s important for these children to find healthy outlets for their emotions.

Other children may act out differently, becoming overly responsible and perfectionistic to feel secure and have some semblance of control in their lives. While these behaviors may provide temporary relief, they can cause long-term psychological damage if left unchecked.

Having an alcoholic parent can be an isolating experience, and children of alcoholics may find themselves with few friends or activities. These children need to seek out healthy relationships and activities to cope with their feelings and gain some relief from the situation at home.

The best thing that a child of an alcoholic parent can do is to talk to someone about their experience. Professional help, such as counseling, can be invaluable in helping these children come to terms with their situation and learn how to cope with its effects on their lives.

How Family Life Might Be Affected

How Family Life Might Be Affected

Alcoholism can have a devastating impact on family life. When one parent is an alcoholic, it can lead to fighting and emotional distance. It can also be difficult for other members of the family to trust or rely on that person if they are not in full control of their behavior due to drinking. Here are some of the most common ways alcoholism can affect family life:

  • Division of Labor – An alcoholic parent will often be unable to fulfill their parental duties, leaving the other parent with more responsibilities. This can create tension and resentment in the family and lead to feelings of guilt or inadequacy from the alcoholic parent.
  • Communication – Alcoholism can make it hard for family members to communicate openly and honestly with each other. Since alcohol is a depressant, it can affect the mood of the parent abusing. This can lead to misunderstandings, arguments, and a breakdown in the trust between family members.

  • Finances – Alcoholism often strains family financially due to decreased income or increased spending on alcohol. This can create stress and difficulty in managing day-to-day finances.
  • Emotional Toll – Alcoholism can have a particularly damaging effect on the emotional health of family members. Children may feel neglected and uncertain about their future, while adults can become overwhelmed with guilt or shame.

What Can You Do If Your Parent Is An Addict?

Here are a few tips for helping your family cope with an alcoholic parent:

Talk To Someone

Talk To Someone

The first and most important thing to do if you think your parent has an alcohol problem is to talk to someone about it. It can be a friend, family member, or counselor or therapist. This will provide a safe outlet for your feelings and help you find the best solutions.

If you feel your alcoholic parents are a danger to themselves or others, don’t hesitate to call local authorities for help.

It’s Not Your Fault

It can be easy to blame yourself for your parent’s drinking, but it’s important to remember that addiction is a disease that affects individuals differently. It’s important to remember that you did not cause this problem and that you can do nothing to make them stop drinking if they do not want to.

You must first be able to take care of yourself before you can help anyone else, so make sure to take time for yourself, practice self-care, and ensure that you have nothing to feel guilty about.

Recognize Your Feelings

It’s very common to experience a range of emotions when faced with an alcoholic parent. From guilt and sadness to anger and fear, it’s important to recognize your feelings and try not to repress them. Taking time for yourself or talking with someone can help you find ways to cope with your emotions in a healthy manner. Some studies show that if these feelings aren’t addressed, they can cause mental and personality disorders among children.

Set Boundaries

Set Boundaries

It can be hard to set boundaries in a family with an alcoholic parent, but it’s important to remember that you have the right to say no and not participate in activities or behaviors that make you uncomfortable.

If you feel like your parents are trying to manipulate or control you, talk to an adult who can help you find ways to stay safe and healthy.

Seek Professional Help

If you feel you are struggling to cope with your parent’s alcoholism, it’s important to consider seeking professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide valuable guidance and support during this difficult time. They can also refer you to local resources and family support groups that may be beneficial in helping you heal from the experiences of growing up with an alcoholic parent.

Join A Support Group

There are various support groups for people with alcoholic family members, and help them seek treatment. These meetings provide a safe space to talk about your experiences and receive understanding from others who have gone through similar situations. You can also find resources like family therapy to help deal with an alcoholic parent.

Seek Safety

If you feel unsafe at home due to your parent’s drinking, don’t hesitate to ask for help. There are resources out there that can provide a safe environment until things cool down or until you and your family figure out the best course of action.

No matter how difficult, taking care of yourself is always the most important thing. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness but rather strength and courage.

Form Healthy Habits

Form Healthy Habits

It’s important to practice self-care and develop healthy habits when dealing with substance abuse. Find activities that help you cope with stress, such as yoga, meditation, or talking with a friend.

Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and eating nutritious meals throughout the day can also be helpful. Taking care of your physical and mental health will be beneficial in the long run.

Break The Cycle

With the right help and support, it’s possible to break the cycle of alcohol addiction. If your parent does decide to seek addiction treatment, be there for them, even if you feel angry or hurt by their behavior.

Remember that recovery is a long process, and encourage them to continue attending meetings and therapy sessions.

No matter what situation you may find yourself in, remember that you are not alone. There is always someone out there willing to offer help and support. You can convince them to opt for alcohol treatment and rehabilitation for long-term recovery.

Seek the assistance you need, and don’t hesitate to ask for it. With patience and understanding, any situation can become more manageable. Rehab centers offer comprehensive treatment plans for individuals with an alcohol use disorder. They provide the tools necessary to gain control over their drinking and start a life of sobriety.

At NuView Treatment Center, our team of dedicated professionals is here to help individuals in recovery find the resources and support they need to return to living a life free of alcohol dependence. Contact us at (323) 307 – 7997 or email us at to learn more about how we can help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

A parent's substance use can disrupt to their family’s daily routines. It can make it hard for the family to complete tasks such as running errands, doing chores, and attending appointments. Substance use can also lead to financial difficulties and emotional distance between family members.

Children of parents with substance use problems often face various emotional challenges. These can include feelings of guilt, confusion, anger, and fear. Children may also feel neglected or scared to talk about what they are going through. Children need to have a safe place to talk about their emotions so they can process them healthily.

Substance use problems can have a profound impact on the parent-child relationship. It can make it hard for children to feel close to their parents and trust them. Substance use can also lead to a lack of consistency in parenting, resulting in feelings of instability for the child.

Children living with a parent with a substance use issue often utilize different coping strategies. These can include avoidance, denial, and emotional numbing to protect themselves from the painful emotions associated with living in such an environment. It's important to have open conversations about what they are going through to help them process their feelings healthily.

A parent's substance use can significantly impact their child's performance at school. Children may feel anxious or overwhelmed, making them struggle in the classroom. Substance use can also create financial strain and often results in children not having the necessary school materials. It's important to ensure children can access the resources they need to reach their academic potential.

The best way to support a child with an alcoholic mother or father is by being present and understanding. Listen to them, validate their feelings, and provide emotional support. Connecting them with resources such as counseling or support groups can also be helpful. Finally, practice self-care and be mindful of how the situation is affecting you as well.

  1. Raitasalo, K., Holmila, M., Jääskeläinen, M., & Santalahti, P. (2019). The effect of the severity of parental alcohol abuse on mental and behavioural disorders in children. European child & adolescent psychiatry, 28(7), 913–922.
  2. Windle M. (1996). Effect of Parental Drinking on Adolescents. Alcohol health and research world, 20(3), 181–184.
  3. Omkarappa, D. B., & Rentala, S. (2019). Anxiety, depression, self-esteem among children of alcoholic and nonalcoholic parents. Journal of family medicine and primary care, 8(2), 604–609.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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