Getting help for alcohol addiction
Many people with alcohol addiction and alcohol use problems can function well enough in society. But, if you or your child’s other parent are struggling with alcohol, it’s important to seek help immediately for the following reasons:
- Your practical skills and judgements can be affected.
- Alcohol can leave you less able to control your emotions, and pick up on your children’s needs .
- Your ability to form a secure attachment with your child can be impeded . Attachment is all about to how securely a child feels cared for and it’s one of the most important factors in their development.
- Alcohol misuse is among the most likely reasons for children being taken into care .
These are quite extreme cases that are connected to ‘excessive’ alcohol consumption, but if you have an alcohol problem, it’s vital that you get support to avoid putting your child at risk.
Impact on children
The impact of parental alcohol use on children can be “severe and long lasting”, affecting “every aspect of [your] child’s development from conception onward” . A parent’s alcohol addiction may have a negative influence on their children’s behaviour and emotional wellbeing, with their children being more likely to act out and be out of control .
Children become more likely to take part in other risky behaviours, often repeating behaviour they have witnessed at home – even very young children can learn to be combative and coercive if they are repeatedly surrounded by conflict . In many families with an alcoholic parent, children find themselves having to take on a parental role to try and regain some control in an unpredictable environment .
It’s best to address the problem directly. Hiding from an alcohol problem will not make it go away, and nor will it reduce the negative impact on those around you.
As with many difficult issues, it’s important to keep an open communication with your children. Frequent communication is the key to reducing your children’s risk of developing their own issues in later life. Your partner may be a good source of support in figuring out how to start these conversations.
Once you have identified an alcohol problem, the best thing to do is seek professional help. Research shows that any negative effects on children are decreased when parents go through treatment for their addiction .
There are currently over 800 agencies in the UK offering advice, treatment or support to people with addiction problems . Often, the easiest route to support is through your doctor, who can talk through your specific needs and direct you to further support. You can also search for local services through the NHS.
 Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) (2011). Hidden Harm: Responding to the Needs of Children of Problem Drug Users.
 Barnard, M. & McKeganey, N. (2004). The impact of parental problem drug use on children: what is the problem and what can be done to help? Society for the Study of Addiction, 99, 552-559.
 Loukas, A., Fitzgerald, H. E., Zucker, R. A., & Eye., A. von. (2000). Parental Alcoholism and Co-Occurring Antisocial Behavior: Prospective Relationships to Externalizing Behavior Problems in their Young Sons. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29(2), 92-106.
 Burnett, G., Jones, R. A., Bliwise, N. G., Thomson Ross, L. (2006). Family Unpredictability, Parental Alcoholism, and the Development of Parentification. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 34, 181–189.
 Andreas, J. B., O'Farrell, T. J., Fals-Stewart, W. (2006). Does Individual Treatment for Alcoholic Fathers Benefit Their Children? A Longitudinal Assessment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(1), pp.191-198.