Parenting has many challenges in the best of circumstances. Single parenting is becoming more the norm than the exception. The question often thought but not as often asked is what the effects of an alcoholic parent on children are.
Parents are the number one influence on a child. Others who may be caregivers have a great deal of influence but there is no comparison to that of a mother or father.
Alcoholism is believed to have genetic and environmental components.
Children are more likely to misuse alcohol if they are exposed to someone who drinks. If you believe your drinking is not apparent to the children, it is probably not true. The pattern of use may be hidden to some extend but children are very capable of knowing what is happening even if it is relatively private.
Teenagers are more likely to be among those who attempt and/or are successful with suicide.
This represents the hopelessness of the situation for the teen. Very often they feel powerless to change circumstances and opt out of trying. Teens need to connect with their parent. This is often not possible when alcohol takes on such a predominant role.
Teenagers need to be social with their peers. This becomes problematic because they bear the shame of a parent who uses. It may be they simply cannot trust what condition to expect if they were to have a friend come over. This need to be social with their peers results in seeking people who fit their family script. This often means they select people who are actively using alcohol and even to excess.
Impact it has on their overall personality.
- The first born typically plays a Hero role trying to live up to the expectations of perfection.
- The second born generally finds it impossible to contend with the perfection and assumes the role of Scapegoat.
- The third child generally takes on the role of Mascot trying to lighten the situation through humor and distraction.
- The fourth child assumes the role of the Lost Child avoids others in the family escaping into books, pets or other non threatening activities.
There are exceptions to the personality effects but the dynamics are quite common among
families experiencing high stress.
The purpose of this article is not to put on a guilt trip but rather to encourage the early
attention to patterns of use and the effects it has on family members. Using may become
so important the family fades into the background. If you recognize your family in the
above descriptions, there is hope. It is possible to find recovery to deal with the effects of
an alcoholic parent on children.
Written by Wendell Montney