26.8 million children in the United States grow up around varying degrees of alcohol abuse.
Alcoholic households are all too common in this country, and it is taking a heavy toll on our youth. Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to grow up to be alcoholics themselves than kids that weren't exposed to drinking.
If you struggle with alcohol dependency, then there's a good chance that your parents did too. You can probably remember the anger, confusion, fear, and shame that was woven into your childhood.
You may have experienced abuse at the hands of an alcoholic parent.
Even if you are nothing like your parents, even if you think you are giving your kids a better life than they gave you, your drinking is still impacting them.
The choices you make today are going to influence the way your child functions in the world, for the rest of their life.
We know it's hard to acknowledge, but it's important to come to terms with the reality of how your drinking affects them. So keep reading to learn about five ways that your drinking is impacting your kids.
Because you owe it to them.
1. Unpredictability Breeds Anxiety
Children of alcoholic parents have a hard time knowing what to expect.
Will there be something for dinner tonight? Will they have clean clothes for school? Will there be enough money to pay for the field trip?
Mom or dad might forget important occasions, such as meetings at school, doctors appointments or even birthdays.
Parents might exhibit intense emotions, such as anger or sadness, for reasons that aren't apparent to the child. There is even the potential for physical or sexual abuse.
Living with alcoholics can be a disorienting roller coaster ride.
Anxiety is a problem plaguing more and more Americans each year, and if you have a drinking problem, there is a high likelihood that your children will be among them.
And anxiety doesn't just impact your mood or your thoughts, it can have profound impacts on your overall physical health.
Children learn to suppress and internalize this anxiety, and that only makes it worse as they get older.
2. Children of Alcoholic Parents Learn Not to Trust People
It's only natural that when you're not sure what to expect from people, you learn not to count on them. Experience enough disappointment, and you'll lower your expectations.
Developmentally, children need to have adult role models that they can trust; it helps them define their sense of self and their role in the world. It contributes to their feelings of safety, security and their overall sense of well-being.
A lack of trust is a huge problem, and it will undoubtedly boil over into other aspects of their life.
- They will have a difficult time trusting other adults or authority figures.
- It will be harder for them to make friends because they will put up walls to protect themselves.
- Once they get older it will hinder their romantic relationships, because they will have a hard time trusting the person they are with.
- They may even learn not to trust their own intuition, leading to lack of self-confidence and an inability to make important decisions.
All of these possibilities are detrimental to a child and can lead to depression and other mental health issues.
3. Alcoholism Creates Codependent Relationships
Most people don't understand the term codependency. They think it refers to a romantic relationship where the couple is too attached to one another, and can't make healthy choices on their own.
But the true definition of codependency comes from family dynamics where one unhealthy person is cared for by others, and then the caretakers learn to define themselves by that role.
In the case of alcoholic parents, children learn to tiptoe around them, to bend over backward to please them, and to care for them in ways that children don't typically have to do for their parents.
The child's sense of self becomes permanently tied to this role, and it's something they're going to seek out in romantic partners when they get older, repeating these patterns of codependency.
You want your child to grow into the strong and beautiful individual that they are meant to be, not an emotionally damaged one, a shell of what they could have been.
4. They Blame Themselves
Alcoholism is a disease, and it can often feel like it is out of your control.
But from the perspective of your children, they can't understand why you would choose alcohol over them, and they blame themselves for it.
If only they did better in school, if only they took better care of their little brother, if only they were smarter or funnier or kinder - then mom or dad would stop drinking.
They look for patterns between their behavior and your consumption of alcohol, constantly trying to figure out what they can do differently, how they can be better.
We all know that no one is responsible for your drinking besides you, but your kids don't.
No matter how many times you tell them not to, they are going to blame themselves. And this guilt is something they're going to carry with them into their adulthood.
5. Trauma is a Cycle
Trauma experienced during childhood directly impacts how the brain develops.
The brain is rewired to cope with feelings of fear and confusion, and these physiological changes lead to much higher rates of mental illness and substance abuse.
The damage that your drinking causes to your children may be the same damage that they inflict on their children.
This cycle will continue indefinitely, until someone decides to put a stop to it, by getting the help that they need.
This is a decision that you have the power to make.
You Have the Power to Heal Yourself and Heal Your Children
Now that you're more aware of the ways that growing up with an alcoholic parent is impacting your child, it is time to make some different choices.
We know what a difficult step this is, and how debilitating of an illness alcohol dependency is.
You are not alone in this struggle.
Reach out to us today and we will help you find the right rehab for you, based on your specific needs and situation.
The impact this will have on your future generations is boundless. Make the call today.