*Please Note: This article is meant to help the reader to understand the specific effects that alcoholism has on family members and parental capabilities, as well as provide background reading for professionals. It is not meant to offend anyone who may be in this particular situation, but to help them.
Alcoholism affects millions, perhaps up to a billion, people throughout the world. It is not only the alcoholic who is affected by this struggle, but those around him or her as well. Oftentimes, the alcoholic does not consider how their actions are affecting their spouse, children, parents, and even friends. Sometimes, they may believe that they are doing little or no harm at all to those around them; unfortunately the truth of the matter is that addiction does affect these individuals just as much. In order for an addict to fully recover, he or she must understand the long term implications that alcoholism had on their loved ones.
Some professionals consider alcoholism a ‘family disease’. This is because an alcoholic can completely disrupt family life and cause problems that can last for years upon years. Approximately, one in every four families has problems that are a direct link to alcohol abuse.
Children of Alcoholics
Children whose mother or father is an alcoholic may exhibit various common symptoms, such as low self esteem, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and guilt. Oftentimes, children of alcoholics feel partly responsible for their parents’ alcoholism; they may even feel as if they created the problem. Children of alcoholics may develop the following:
The child may have problems at school including learning difficulties, inability to concentrate, and overall poor school performance. Some children, especially those above 8 years old may be aggressive towards other students or teachers, or may skip school without their parents’ approval. It is not uncommon for these children to fail classes or even have to repeat the grade.
Parental alcoholism can cause the child to display various types of anti-social behaviours. Some children will become very quiet and withdrawn. These children will often spend a lot of time in their room and distance themselves from their parents. In school they may not have very many friends, if any at all. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some children of alcoholics will become more aggressive. They may fight with other children, be inattentive, and hyperactive. The child, especially one who is young, may have temper tantrums or fits because he or she is desperate for attention.
Children of alcoholics often display various psychosomatic problems; such as, bed wetting, asthma, and rashes. They may have negative attitudes towards their parents, but also towards themselves. The child may blame their self for their parents’ actions, suffer from low self esteem, and cry when they are alone.
Parental alcoholism affects all children differently, but in nearly every situation they behave like so because it is a way of coping with the problem. They may be hoping that through these problems, their parents will focus on them and focus less on drinking. The child may wish that persons outside of their family will come to take them to a safer more comfortable place. Whatever their reasons may be, they are feeling this way because certain needs that the child requires are not being fulfilled. These needs include: love, affection, nurture, care, and structure. By living in an environment where at least one parent suffers from alcoholism, the child is very likely not getting their needs met, at least in a reliable or consistent manner, therefore resulting to the problems listed above.
Adult Children of Alcoholics
The effects of alcoholism can continue to impact an individual even when they reach adulthood. It is not uncommon for an adult who was exposed to alcoholism as a child to have a difficult time trusting people and suffer from relationship problems. Impulsive behaviour, anxiety, stress, depression, and anger are all behaviours that these people may display. Psychologists suspect that the reason for these negative emotions are due to a continued feelings of low self esteem, shame, or loneliness that the individual was unable to ‘let go’ from. This is why it is important for children who has a parent suffering from alcoholism to get help; whether it is through counselling, therapy, or group meetings that are age appropriate.
Please continue to part 2 to read about how alcoholism affects spouses and partners and find out how each family member can get help