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How to Cope with a Parent's Alcoholism

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


I'm often asked about how a child can cope with a parent's alcohol problems. Well, that depends on the age of the child. If we're talking about younger children or teenagers, really often what really is required in most often is that another adult becomes involved to help that child, whether that be a teacher or a guidance counselor or another relative who's not having an alcohol problem or perhaps the other parent, if there is another parent. And often what children need is they need to have their reality verified because their reality is this is normal if that's their parent but often, kids, they know something's wrong but it's not verified because that is their world in their home with a parent who's drinking heavily or drinking constantly who maybe checked out, who maybe passed out. So often, again, it involves helping a child be able to disclose to someone that they're usually scared for their parent and worried about their parent. That can be very difficult because kids are very loyal to their parents. They don't want to hurt their parents and often they think by telling on them, they'll be hurting their parent and that is hard because sometimes particularly if it's a single parent situation, there is the risk that the child would be removed from the parent. With an older parent, if you have an adult child dealing with an older parent, it's obviously very different because the child is an adult. There's different considerations. So often what that maybe to help a child or particularly teens or adults cope with a parent, there are first of all, there's something called Teen-Anon. It's 12 step based, like Alcoholics Anonymous but it's for teenagers specifically who have a parent particularly who is having alcohol problems. So it is a supportive environment of other teens that'll be facilitated by someone else to help them get support and if you can get a teenager to that kind of meeting, they often see that they're not alone and that their experiences is very similar to that of other children. And that goes for adult children as well. There's something called ACOA, Adult Children of Alcoholics and there's also Al-Anon. Al-Anon is just like Teen-Anon where it is, again, a support group for significant others of alcohol of people with alcohol problems. And Adult Children of Alcoholics is specifically for that group, children of alcoholics, where Al-Anon will be any significant other. It might be a spouse, or a parent or a child. So the main issue is to encourage people to get their own support to help them figure out how to cope with their situation. Everyone needs support, whether it's the person's who abusing alcohol or the significant other of that person. That's the key is to get support and not go at it alone.

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