How to Help an Alcoholic Parent

Learn more about the consequences and effects alcoholic parents pose to the family unit and the treatment options that are available.


When a child grows up with an alcoholic parent, they learn many things. One of the most challenging lessons to learn is how to help them because it’s hard to know what to do or say when a parent struggles with addiction.
Thankfully, there are some steps people can take to support their parents and help them get on the road to recovery. This article will provide helpful tips on coping with an alcoholic parent and where to find treatment.
Alcoholic Parents


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Developing in a Substance Abuse Household

Substance use disorder can dictate whether people can fulfill their responsibilities and change how they behave. Unfortunately, children of alcoholic parents experience the negative impacts first-hand—struggling to get their needs met, feeling they have to hide their parent’s addiction, and taking on adult tasks to compensate for their parent’s lack of responsibility. This can severely impact children’s development, affecting their psychological, emotional, mental, and behavioral health.

Growing Up With Alcoholic Parents

Alcoholism can greatly impact the person affected and the people close to them, especially their children. Many people live with a parent or parents who struggle with alcohol or drug problems. This can negatively impact the growing child, as they may not have their needs properly fulfilled and may subsequently develop unhealthy habits and expectations.
In the United States, approximately 6.6 million adolescents live in a household with at least one parent struggling with alcohol addiction.1
Common feelings people with an alcoholic parent experience include embarrassment, anger, sadness, shame, worry, frustration, lack of trust, depression, and anxiety.

Signs of an Alcoholic Parent

If a parent struggles with alcohol addiction, they may have trouble:

  • Keeping a job
  • Paying bills
  • Putting aside money for food
  • Keeping up with their hygiene
In addition, if an alcoholic parent tries to cut back or quit drinking but is unsuccessful, this is a primary indicator of alcohol use disorder.

How Do Alcoholic Parents Affect Their Children?

If children have alcoholic parents, their biological, psychological, and social development may be negatively impacted. The following sections will explore research-based psychological, emotional, interpersonal, and behavioral effects commonly experienced by children of alcoholic parents.2

Psychological and Emotional Effects of Alcoholic Parents

When dealing with an alcoholic parent, their reactions or behaviors can be inconsistent and unpredictable. For instance, if a parent is under the influence of alcohol, they may be verbally abusive or less tolerant. An alcoholic parent’s effects on the child may hinder the adolescent’s sense of order, stability, and control. Having alcoholic parents is also associated with lower self-esteem.

Interpersonal Effects of Alcoholic Parents

Adolescents and adults with alcoholic parents sometimes have difficulties interacting with others and establishing healthy relationships. People-pleasing, overachieving, and the constant need for approval are examples of the interpersonal effects alcoholic parents have on their children’s personality traits.

Behavioral Effects of Alcoholic Parents

Children of alcoholic fathers or mothers are more likely to participate in adolescent drinking. In addition, substance use, behavioral issues, and poor academic performance can result from dealing with alcoholic parents.

How to Help an Alcoholic Parent

There are multiple healthy and safe ways to provide help and ease the challenges of dealing with alcoholic parents. Keep reading to learn how to provide help while maintaining boundaries and caring for yourself.

Setting Boundaries With Alcoholic Parents

It’s essential to set boundaries when it comes to helping alcoholic parents. Physically and emotionally healthy boundaries are critical in all relationships. Ask yourself the following questions to set and maintain proper boundaries:
  • What are reasonable and safe ways for people to behave around me?
  • If someone crosses my boundaries or limits, how will I respond?
Remember, how another person responds to your boundaries is not your responsibility. Respect, firm communication, and limits are fundamental when setting healthy physical, emotional, and intellectual boundaries.3

Opening Up to Someone

When living with alcoholic parents, it can be helpful to talk with friends or trusted adults about what you’re going through.

Finding a Support Group

Support groups like Al-Anon are an excellent resource if you have a loved one struggling with addiction. In-person support groups, online resources, and twenty-four-hour hotlines are available.

Knowing That It’s Not Your Fault

Self-blame is an ordinary emotion children, adolescents, and adults of alcoholics face. Remember, it is not your fault—a child cannot cause a parent’s alcohol addiction or substance abuse problem.

Knowing Your Emotions

Although it’s normal to try and bury feelings or pretend everything is okay, it’s not a healthy way to cope. Identifying, expressing, and processing your emotions is crucial.

Finding a Safe Place

Everyone in your household deserves to feel safe.
  • If you ever feel unsafe in your home, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.7233.4
  • If you or your family members are in danger, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately.
  • You can also confide in a trusted teacher, school counselor, therapist, or doctor.

Building Good Emotional Habits

What are good emotional habits? Speaking up for yourself, expressing your feelings, and showing emotions are all examples of good emotional habits. Attending therapy can aid in learning and developing healthy emotional habits.

Treatment Options for Alcoholic Parents

Unfortunately, alcohol-related problems are a leading public health issue in the United States; nonetheless, alcohol use disorder can be treated. The following sections will explore treatment options for alcohol use disorder:5


Detoxification is the process of expelling a substance from the body to alleviate dependence and addiction. Depending on a person’s needs, they may detox at home or in a medically supervised detox center. To determine which level of care is necessary and discuss medications, schedule an evaluation with a primary care physician or addiction specialist to create a treatment plan.

Inpatient/Residential Rehab

Inpatient and residential rehabilitation programs involve living at the center during treatment, typically lasting from twenty-eight days to six months. Residential programs are helpful for individuals who need intensive around-the-clock support and provide various treatment options, such as medication-assisted treatment, individual therapy, and group therapy.

Outpatient Rehab

Depending on the level of care needed and the severity of the addiction, some individuals may choose to start with outpatient rehab programs. Outpatient programs do not involve living at the center. Instead, people attend therapy a few hours per day, three to six times per week. For instance, if a person lacks childcare, cannot be absent from work, or does not have access to financial resources, they may try outpatient rehab.

Helping Alcoholic Parents in Southern California

If your parent is struggling with alcoholism, various treatment methods are available. Keep reading to learn about alcohol addiction treatment options in Southern California with Concise Recovery.

Treatment Methods for Alcoholic Parents

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Treatments for alcohol addiction generally include detox, behavioral therapy, sober living, and mutual-support groups.

Alcohol Detox

Withdrawal symptoms during detox can range from mild to severe—sometimes life-threatening. At Concise Recovery, we recommend and offer medically-supervised alcohol detoxification programs to ensure the safety and comfort of each client.


Concise Recovery uses evidence-based behavioral treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to successfully treat alcohol use disorder. We provide numerous therapy options to ensure the needs of each client are properly met.

Sober Living

To prevent relapse and maintain lasting sobriety, Concise Recovery’s clients have the opportunity to reside in our sober living community after treatment. Sober living and support groups increase the likelihood of long-lasting recovery.

Get Help Now With Concise Recovery

If you’re ready to take the first step towards ending the cycle of addiction and finding healing, contact Concise Recovery for a free consultation!