According to recent studies alcoholism is a disease that affects not only the addicted person but it also affects their families as well. Many children who grow up in homes where one or both parents are alcoholics or abuse alcohol will in time need to have help in sorting out all of the issues associated with a parent or parents that abuse alcohol. Sometimes children of alcoholics are physically, sexually and emotionally abused. Even when there is no outward abuse the child growing up in an alcoholic family suffers damage.
Once a parent is on the road to living in an addicted state the need to drink supersedes the ability to care for the child. The children become innocent bystanders unable to make sense of their world. These children may grow up to abuse alcohol or have some problems with alcohol use. These children may also show trouble with handling their anger, low self esteem, an inability to trust, feelings of guilt and some form of depression. Stevens, P 20005)It has been argued that any individual related to an alcoholic may have problems related to that alcoholism, even the grandchildren of alcoholics. Much information has to be gathered on this group, the number of children in the United States that fall into this group is estimated at 34 million. Often times these children marry into families which alcoholism is a problem. (Seefeidt, R 1992). Many of the children from these families share alike dysfunctions. Along with keeping the family secret, they learn to deny, that there is a problem.
Pain is a way of life for most of these children. Somehow the children in these families find a way to cope with the fact that the parent or parents are not able to maintain a stable environment (Stevens, P 2005) These parents have an even harder time meeting the emotional, educational, and social needs of their children. Parental alcohol abuse often present potentially long-term behavioral, social and psychological problems for these children. Depression, anxiety. And conduct disorders, as well as the development of rigid and inflexible coping skills.
Some practitioners in the mental health field make the conclusion that these children are psychologically unhealthy due to the family’s alcoholism alone. (Stout, L 1996). It has been found that only a small portion of these young people receive any type of professional counseling services. It is not clear all of the effects of parent alcohol abuse on children, but it must be noted that the sooner counseling is started the better chance the child coming from this environment will have when they reach their teenage years.
It is important to understand that the family who has an alcoholic member has alcoholism”. Alcoholism controls all of the behaviors in the family. Because of denial the family may blame factors outside the family for their problems. (Herzog, C 2000) Children need the skills that will help them deal with the effects of the disease. Alcohol abuse is multigenerational-This disorder is often passed from one generation to the next; continuing the cycles of pain and misery. (Herzog,C, 2002 ). Studies are being conducted to try to figure out what kinds of abuse these children suffer.
The studies want to distinguish if the abuse is different depending on what parent is the alcoholic(Stout, L 1996). The attitudes of alcoholic mothers compared to nonalcoholic mothers, tend to be less accepting, more rejecting, disciplinarian, or overprotecting, and they have a significantly greater degree of conflicting attitudes. ( Post, P1998:) As a result of the stress that children living with alcoholic parents endure it seems they are more likely to have physical, mental, social and emotional problems than children of non-alcoholic parents. ( Post,P-1998).
During the childhood of these children they seem to have more health complaints of stomach pains, headaches, sleep-problems, tics, and nausea, although no physical causes for such complaints can be found. ( Post, P1998)This same article suggest that these children when compared to non children of nonalcoholic’s parents are at a greater risk for depression, emotional problems, and poor peer relationships. A study done in this article, states that suicide attempts, acting out behaviors and conduct disorders seem to follow the list characteristics of the children from these families.
Few studies were done to measure level of anxiety, self-esteem, and lack of self control, of school aged children with alcoholism in the family. (Post, P. 1998) However no matter how painful the alcoholic parent may appear to the child the pattern is likely to be repeated. (Stevens, P 2005) The literature shows that for many of these children school is the one safe place, from the confusion and tension of alcoholic homes. Safe, secure school environments may be assisting in the building of self-esteem for these children. Phyllis Post, states in the article School-age children of alcoholics and non lcoholics that,” Many children are suffering the effects of alcoholism in their families, and schools may have the potential to serve as an antidote to low self-esteem that is brewing at home” She goes on to state in this article that the differences in lost of control among children of alcoholics and children of non-alcoholics disappear by adulthood. It appears that the impact of counselors and teachers and the need for services and other helping professionals is important because the problem may be hard to detect. (Post ,P1998) Thus it becomes a matter of great importance for the children from these families to get help.
Everyone involved in the child’s life has the potential to be a lookout for children they suspect living in an alcoholic home. Although counselors cannot make the problem in the child’s life disappear, they can help by understanding that they are just as powerless over the parents drinking as the child is. Counselors must realize their best avenue for helping children adjust is to help them make the best of their home situations and take care or themselves. Counselors and teacher’s can make sure these children get special attention; any close relationship with just one significant adult can make a difference in the life of these children.
With consistency and care these relationships can help them develop feelings of trust and self worth (Post, P 1998). The children of alcoholics believe that they will be failures even if they do well academically. These children never see their success no matter what they achieve. (Herzog, C 2000,). Because of broken promises, confusion, harsh words and the threat of abuse, children in alcoholic families usually learn to distrust others, so that the teacher, counselor, or outside caregiver should realize they have an opportunity to show the child a different view of