Children Of Alcoholics

QUESTION: What are the effects on children of alcoholics?

ANSWER:

Statistically, the effect on children of alcoholics is heart-breaking. In an average-size classroom, six students have at least one parent who is an alcoholic. Children of alcoholics carry a very large burden—dealing with a parent who is unpredictable, unstable, and seemingly unconcerned about their child’s welfare. Is it surprising that 50-60 percent of the children of alcoholics become alcoholics themselves? Eighty percent of teenage suicides come from alcoholic homes. When children have a parent who is an alcoholic, that condition becomes the predominant fact in their lives. Often, children are unaware of how seriously their personalities are altered.

The damaging effect on the children of alcoholics is seen in their coping mechanisms. Children spend a great deal of time trying to determine what is “normal” and then attempting to make their family appear “normal.” Role-playing is a way in which the child of an alcoholic parent attempts to cope with this frightening environment.
  • The “hero” is often the oldest child who serves as a surrogate parent. The child is typically an overachiever and overcompensates for their family’s inadequacies by trying to be “good” all the time.
  • Some children become the “scapegoat,” allowing all of their family’s anger and frustration about their dysfunctional circumstances to be focused on them.
  • A child who assumes the role of the “mascot” is the family clown who brings comic relief to a stressful family situation. Their charming personality will entertain others and gives the impression that stress is not a problem.
  • The “lost child” is so fearful of causing disruptions that they try to blend into the background. By living in a fantasy world where life appears normal; they can experience hopes, dreams, and wishes that are nonexistent in their real world.
Are there traits that indicate the long-term effects on children of alcoholic parents? The child’s concept of a “normal life” is distorted so severely that poor behavior continues into adulthood. Children in an alcoholic environment have difficulty following projects through to completion, often starting and stopping projects repeatedly. Their attempts to “cover” for their alcoholic parent(s) cause them to struggle with being truthful with others and themselves. In many cases, the children of alcoholic parents take everything too seriously and are overcritical of their own shortcomings. Having been robbed of their childhood innocence, they lack the ability to have fun and are unable to rid themselves of shame.

Can the devastating effects on children of alcoholic parents be rectified? The first thing that disintegrates when a person becomes an alcoholic is his/her relationship with God. As a result, the home suffers and the children experience problems trusting God or believing that He cares for them. Yet the Bible tells us to, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what’s happening to you” (1 Peter 5:7). Children may never regain what was lost emotionally, but they can discover a new kind of unconditional love and even forgiveness towards their affected parent (Micah 7:18-19).

A child of an alcoholic parent never needs to carry an unnecessary burden. God is anxious to give comfort and strength to them as well as their alcoholic parent(s). The apostle Paul experienced physical and emotional pain, yet he trusted God. “. . . You know my faith and how long I have suffered. You know my love and my patient endurance. You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured . . . but the Lord delivered me from all of it” (2 Timothy 3:10–11). God loves everyone in an alcoholic family and can heal the deepest hurts. Like a heavenly Father, God longs to give each of His children a new life through His Son Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:21-23).

Adult Children of Alcoholics – Find Help!

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