Being the child of an alcoholic parent can be devastating. It’s hard seeing someone who you trust and love acting out of control because of their drinking. Many children of alcoholic parents may feel isolated, afraid, and unsure of how to relate to their mother or father.
No one has the responsibility for someone else’s drinking problem. The problem lies solely with the alcoholic parent, but often, children internalize blame, wondering what they did to make their mother or father drink too much. Children of alcoholics deal with constant fear and worry. Even when the parent develops an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) problem later in life, it can still be stressful for adult children.
If you think your parent has AUD, there is still help and hope for your family.
How Can I Approach My Alcoholic Parent About the Problem?
You cannot force anyone to change, but you can bring attention to the fact that they have a problem. It can be scary for children to bring up their parent’s alcohol problem. There’s a fear that they’ll get angry at you or end up drinking more. However, unless violence is a legitimate concern, the benefits of having an honest conversation can outweigh the risks. Some parents may not realize how much their drinking is impacting their children.
Structure your conversation around bringing up that they might have a problem and that you are concerned. Don’t initiate the conversation when your parent is intoxicated, and try to find a time when you can talk honestly, one-on-one. State that you care about them, and you’re having the conversation because you’re concerned about their well-being.
Keep the perspective personal, using “I” statements, such as “I am worried about how much you’re drinking” or “I’m concerned that your health may be at risk.” Avoid “you” statements, such as “You’re drinking too much” or “you have a problem.”
It can help list behaviors they’ve exhibited and how those behaviors have impacted you. Bring up how specific behaviors made you feel, and try to avoid judgment. Stick to your feelings and try not to make your parent feel defensive or attacked. This can be hard to do, as you may blame your parent for a lot of your feelings and the damage they have done. However, if you can present your concerns from a place of love and wanting to help, rather than accusing your parent, you may have a greater chance of helping them understand that they need help.
What if My Alcoholic Parent Doesn’t Realize They Need Help?
After your conversation, your parent may still be in denial that they need help with their drinking. You may be able to talk to your friends or family about your parent’s drinking to enlist their use, or you may even wish to seek out services from a professional interventionist or medical professional to help your parent see the need for change.
Even if your parent doesn’t enter treatment, there are still options for you as a child of an alcoholic parent. You can improve your own emotional health and well-being and learn to set healthy boundaries with your alcoholic parent. Resources and family support groups can help you, and your siblings or other family members heal and address the grief and hurt your alcoholic parent has caused you.
Do You Need Support?
Baystate Recovery Services offers help for people with alcohol addiction, as well as family support services and counseling. We can help you with resources to present to your alcoholic parent and offer counseling to help you and them heal after they’ve completed treatment. Contact us today for a free, confidential assessment.