Helping children with alcoholic parents

Statistics show one in five children in the UK today are living with a parent who has a problem with alcohol.

Despite the shocking statistics, children affected by parental alcohol problems remains a hidden topic. In a bid to change the recent Children of Alcoholics Week aims to raise awareness and reassure children that they are not alone and there is help and support available. The clearer the support pathways are to children and young adults, the better their future can be.

The effects of harmful drinking spread beyond the individual consuming the alcohol. The effects can be just as damaging to the family as to the person with the addiction and children are often the most affected.

One reason is because once an addiction takes hold alcohol becomes the drinker’s priority. As increasing amounts of time are spent drinking, or recovering from drinking, the greater the likelihood parental responsibilities will suffer.

Many studies have revealed the negative outcomes that parental alcohol problems have on children and they include:

  • Poorer physical and psychological health
  • Higher hospital admission rates
  • Poor achievement level in education
  • Eating disorders
  • Addiction problems (many of which persist into adulthood)

For children of alcoholic parents, there are a number of ways that they can be supported:

  • Talking to someone - having a trusted person they can talk to is vital for all children, but this is especially the case for those who are having a difficult time at home. Whether it’s another family member, a teacher, a counsellor or a friend of the family, that extra support can really help children to cope when they feel sad, angry, scared or just need to talk.
  • Keeping a journal - writing our feelings down can be therapeutic and therefore acts as an excellent coping mechanism. This is particularly helpful for children who are struggling to cope with their situation but find it difficult to talk to others.
  • Engaging in social activities - children should be encouraged to do the things they enjoy. This will allow them to forget about their problems at home, even if it is just for a short period. It will also help them to develop relationships with other people who can help and support them through this difficult time.
  • Raising awareness in schools - children spend most of their time at school so this is a great place to raise awareness about the effects of parental alcoholism. Whether you’re a teacher, a parent or a family friend, speak to the school about making sure children are educated about the issue and the help that is available if they need it.
  • Counselling - speaking to a professional counsellor is one of the best ways that children of alcoholics are fully supported. The younger they are when they learn to talk to others, develop coping mechanisms, realise that their parent’s behaviour is not their fault and prevent themselves from establishing these behaviours themselves, the better.
  • Speaking to others with the same problems - a school, GP, counsellor or support group will be able to put children in touch with others who are going through the same thing. As humans we want to be able to fit in and feel like we belong to a community. If children and young adults have a group they can relate to and not feel excluded from, this can make a huge difference to how they cope.
  • Ongoing support into adulthood - just because you’ve grown up and moved out it doesn’t mean that you are exempt from the affects of having an alcoholic parent. Something like this will more than likely stay with you for the rest of your life and dealing with it will be an ongoing process. Don’t be afraid to join support groups for people who grew up in alcoholic homes, seek counselling or talk to a trusted friend or colleague.
  • The Life Works Family Programme - addictions don’t just affect the addict, they have a huge impact on the entire family. Life Works believe that one of the most effective ways of beating an addiction is to involve the whole family in the recovery process.
  • The Family Works Programme is a two day non-residential programme that helps participants to establish a supportive family network while developing the necessary tools for ongoing growth and development.

    Upon completion, families should be able to develop healthier ways of communicating their feelings; understand, set and maintain healthy boundaries; and learn how to become a close family unit once again. The programme also helps to deal with the deep rooted issues an addiction can cause, helping to heal debilitating shame and overcome past pain that can otherwise prevent future healthy relationships.

    For more information about our Family Works Programme, please feel free to visit our Treatment Methods page. Alternatively, for further details about alcoholism, the signs, symptoms and treatments that are available, visit our Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation page.

    For more information about art therapy and how it can help in the treatment of mental health conditions, please contact Life Works.

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