A child being raised by a parent or caregiver suffering from alcoholism is in a difficult position because they cannot go to their own parents for support. Some of the feelings can include the following:
- Guilt. The child may see himself or herself as the main cause of the mother’s or father’s drinking.
- Anxiety. The child may worry constantly about the situation at home. He or she may fear the alcoholic parent will become sick or injured, and may also fear fights and violence between the parents.
- Embarrassment. Parents may give the child the message that there is a terrible secret at home. The ashamed child does not invite friends home and is afraid to ask anyone for help.
- Inability to have close relationships. Because the child has been disappointed by the drinking parent many times, he or she often does not trust others.
- Confusion. The alcoholic parent will change suddenly from being loving to angry, regardless of the child’s behavior. A regular daily schedule, which is very important for a child, does not exist because bedtimes and mealtimes are constantly changing.
- Anger. The child feels anger at the alcoholic parent for drinking, and may be angry at the non-alcoholic parent for lack of support and protection.
- Depression. The child feels lonely and helpless to change the situation.
It is important for relatives, teachers and caregivers to realize that whether or not the parents are receiving treatment for alcoholism, these children and adolescents can benefit from educational programs and mutual-help groups such as programs for children of alcoholics, Al-Anon, and Alateen.
Research Supports Attendance at Alateen.
This study compared 25 Alateen members with 25 non-members who had an alcoholic parent and 25 non-members with no alcoholic parent.
Adolescents with an alcoholic parent who were members of Alateen experienced significantly fewer negative moods, significantly more positive moods and higher self-esteem than those who were not members.
In fact, Alateen members had self-esteem and mood scores similar to those of adolescents who did not have an alcoholic parent.
Hughes, J. M. "Adolescent Children of Alcoholic Parents and the Relationship of Alateen to These Children." Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 45(5): 946-947.