CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS
Alcoholism in the home has long-lasting
effects. Children of alcoholics often learn to cope with an
unhappy childhood in ways that cause problems for them much later
in life. Learning about how alcoholism affected your past can
help you to make sure your future is better.
Beliefs, & Patterns
Children of alcoholics often act in one of the
- Become super-responsible, like a miniature
- Become a troublemaker.
- Become able to adjust to any change,
without noise or fuss.
- Become a family clown or peacemaker,
smoothing over troubles.
Children of alcoholics often believe that they
are all alone, that no other families have these problems, or
that it is up to them to cure the parent. A child may take the
blame for a parent's alcoholism--or the parent may blame the
child. As a result, many children of alcoholics not only feel
unloved, but unlovable. Some of them suffer physical or sexual
abuse, which reinforces this feeling. And because life at home is
full of disappointments, broken promises, and lies, the child
learns not to trust, not to get too close to anyone, and not to
communicate in healthy ways.
Problems in Adult Life
Adult children of alcoholics often retain their
childhood patterns. The super-responsible child may grow into an
adult who demands perfectionism. The child who was the family's
scapegoat may have legal or financial troubles throughout life.
The child who used to adjust to anything may be passive and
withdrawn as an adult. And the family clown may grow up to be
entertaining, but irresponsible.
An adult child of an alcoholic may be anxious,
may try to control events and relationships, may have trouble
being intimate, may be chronically depressed, or have
stress-related health problems. Tragically, many children of
alcoholics either become chemically dependent themselves or marry
How to Help or Get Help
If you know a child living in an alcoholic
home, try doing these things:
- Gently encourage the child to talk about
life, and listen well.
- Invite the child to an outing, or offer a
quiet place to do homework.
- Encourage the child to think of people who
would be understanding and helpful in hard times--perhaps
a teacher, friend, relative or neighbor.
- If the parent drinks and drives, give the
child your phone number, and offer to come pick him up.
- Suggest checking the library for books
about alcoholism or attending Alateen. Give the child the
phone number and offer a ride to the first meeting.
- Tell the child that he or she cannot
cause, control or cure the parent's drinking.
- Tell the child that alcoholism is a
disease, and it's okay to love the parent but hate the
If you grew up with an alcoholic parent:
- Find out more about alcoholism and its
effects on family members or alcoholics. Contact Al-Anon
for information on special groups for Adult Children of
Alcoholics, or ask your employee assistance program for
referrals to other helpful programs.
- Talk about your feelings and experiences
with friends, relatives, people in 12-step programs or
- Remember, you didn't cause your parent's
drinking, and no one but the parent had any chance of
controlling it or curing it.
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