When you drink, it affects your child
If drinking is affecting your - or your partner's - parenting, you'll want to understand what it is for a child to live with a problem drinker.
How much is too much?
Is your drinking too much for you and your child to handle? Many alcoholics deny they are dependent on alcohol but negative results such as a poor job performance, strained family relationships, an unreasonable financial outlay on the purchase of liquor, regular use of a car while intoxicated and DUI arrests, are red flags. Craving alcohol, needing to consume more to achieve the same effects and withdrawal symptoms (including the delirium tremors commonly known as the DTs) if you go too long between drinks also are danger signs.
If you have ever felt you should reduce your drinking or felt guilty about it, had people criticize the amount of alcohol you consume you may already think you should be acting on their advice. If you regularly binge drink, you need a drink first thing in the morning before you can function, or are desperate to get home to your drink at night, you may have an alcohol problem. And it isn’t just a disaster in the making for you – it also affects your child.
The effect on your child
Children whose parents are alcoholics are at higher risk of emotional problems and are four times more likely to become alcoholics than children whose parents don’t drink. Many children of alcoholics also experience a degree of neglect or abuse. Alcohol impairs judgment and mood, leading to unpredictable behavior: children whose parents drink to excess often report having to constantly walk on eggshells to avoid antagonizing their parent. They also often have to step up and take on the parenting role, caring for younger siblings in the absence of a set daily schedule, running the home and dealing with financial hardship because funds are being diverted to the purchase of alcohol – all while trying to cope with the normal stresses of puberty and schoolwork.
Many children of alcoholics have low self esteem, guilt and anger – it’s common for them to think they must be the reason why their parent is drinking and also to feel intense rage at the fact their parent is not effectively parenting them. They likely will feel tense and anxious about their home situation, worrying that their parent may become ill, hurt themselves or another family member, or get into a car accident while driving drunk.
It’s difficult for the children of alcoholics to develop friendships because they are ashamed of their parent and too embarrassed to bring friends home. This withdrawal from school friends and peers can extend into an inability to form close relationships as they grown because they feel unable to trust the behavior of others.
Solving the problem
Although those alcoholics who admit their addiction often see it as insurmountable, people stop drinking every day. You can start by contacting Alcoholics Anonymous, which can provide support and encouragement to both you and your child. Your doctor also may be able to assist by prescribing you medications that mean you can’t stomach alcohol, or by referring you for counseling.
While you recover, ensure that your child also has someone to confide in – his school guidance counselor, your pastor, or a family member or close friend. Your child also needs a safe place he can go to if you succumb and start drinking alcohol again. Make sure he knows that it is OK for him to call 911 if he feels that your drinking is putting him and his siblings at risk.
Worried about a friend?
Are you concerned a relative or friend’s drinking may be affecting their child? The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry advises that the following behaviors may signal a drinking or other problem at home:
- Failure in school; truancy.
- Lack of friends; withdrawal from classmates.
- Delinquent behavior, such as stealing or violence.
- Frequent physical complaints, such as headaches or stomachaches.
- Aggression towards other children.
- Risk taking behaviors.
- Depression or suicidal thoughts or behavior.