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How to Cope with a Child's Alcoholism

Learn how to cope with a child's alcoholism in this Howcast video featuring addictions specialist Paul J. Rinaldi, Ph.D.


I'm often called by parents who are concerned about their child's alcohol use. Sometimes those children are teenagers, sometimes those children are adults. But no matter the age of the child, parents are always parents and always feel responsible and concerned about their child. Anyone who's a parent can relate to that. Even if their children are not having any problems, parents are always worried and want their children to be doing well. So when parents call me looking for help and suggestions of how to cope with their child's alcohol use, I always try to tell them that they need to go to a professional and seek help themselves.

They need to for a couple of reasons. One is to get support in how to deal with this because most parents when they're dealing with a child who's abusing alcohol are just terrified, and often it's very difficult for them to think clearly. And it's very difficult to set limits on that child because what happens, particularly if the child is living with them, that the child can be very volatile often, and they can be very threatening to the parent, sometimes physically threatening. But what I mean by threatening is often they'll threaten to leave the house which worries the parent even more. So the parent often feels between a rock and a hard place where if they confront the child too much, the child will leave and they'll be more worried. But they don't want to tolerate what's the use in the house or the use in general of this child.

So I really highly recommend that parents in that situation seek professional help from an expert in substance abuse. They can often call whatever their local treatment center is to get referrals. Another thing they can do is they can attend self-help meetings of Al-Anon, which is self-help meetings based on 12 Step Alcoholics Anonymous principles that are for the families of people with alcohol problems. And there are Al-Anon meetings that are specific for parents, and I highly recommend that parents seek that kind of help because really then they'll meet other parents who are in the exact same situation that they are in. And, of course, it may be different considerations with a younger child versus an older child, but they need to get advice from professionals and they need to get support from other parents who are going through the same thing.

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