Guide To Helping an Alcoholic Parent

Children who grow up with alcoholic parents live in households that can be unpredictable and, in many cases, explosive and dangerous. Children exposed to this type of living grow up without learning proper coping mechanisms and may become alcoholics themselves later in life.

Does My Parent Have a Drinking Problem?

Alcohol abuse not only affects the individual drinking, but it also affects everyone around that person, and this oftentimes includes children and spouses. Alcoholism is often considered a family disease for these reasons, and this also mean everyone affected will need to get treatment to heal.

More than 14 million people in the US over the age of 12 struggle with an alcohol use disorder and 414,000 children between the ages of 12 and 17 also struggle with alcohol abuse. It’s important to know the signs of alcohol abuse although children are not always able to pick up on these signs. Children may know something is wrong but not know how to deal with the problem or they may just think that this is how their parent is. In this next section, we will breakdown the signs and what to look out for when dealing with an alcoholic parent.

The Signs of an Alcoholic Parent

While it may be difficult to identify an alcohol use disorder in the family as a child, there are specific behaviors and symptoms you should look out for. 


  • Parent is drinking heavily in a short period of time
  • Parent attempts to stop drinking but cannot
  • Parent purchases a lot of alcohol constantly
  • Parent spends a lot of time recovering from alcohol hangovers
  • Parent talks about drinking excessively
  • Parent fails to carry out responsibilities/ neglect’s child
  • Parent misses work often
  • Parent may have flu like symptoms when not drinking or appear sick
  • Parent drinks regardless of anger issues, mental health problems, etc.
  • Parent stops doing the things they love/ hobbies
  • Parent may drive while drunk
  • Parent over time builds up tolerance to alcohol and needs more.


  • Increase in irritability
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Possible blackouts
  • Drinks alone or in secret
  • Becomes isolated and withdrawn

How Do I Approach My Alcoholic Parent About Their Problem?

When you have identified alcohol abuse in your family, it may be time to have a discussion with your parent about their problem. You may be wondering what the best way to approach your parent will be. According to American Addiction Centers, resentment and confrontation can lead to a defensive parent who may refuse help but using the CRAFT method has been a positive approach to getting individuals help.

CRAFT stands for Community Reinforcement and Family Training. This method works by teaching you how to talk to your parent without judgement or anger. Here are some tips on how to follow the CRAFT method:

  • Go to your parent during a time where they are sober or trying to quit drinking
  • Stay kind and gentle when talking to your parent
  • Remain calm and positive
  • If you think your parent seems receptive to the idea of getting help, offer them treatment options
  • One on one conversations are essential as to not crowd your parent or overwhelm them
  • Don’t place blame on your parent when talking to them
  • Try not to push them into getting help, you want them to really want it

Remaining supportive, encouraging, and loving can go a long way when talking to your parent about their addiction. Remember to care for yourself as best you can, so you can be there for your parent.

What Do I Do If My Alcoholic Parent Refuses Help?

It is possible that when talking to your parent about getting help for their alcohol use disorder, they will refuse treatment. This may feel crushing, but its crucial to stay calm and supportive. Even though they have decided not to seek treatment, there are things you can do for yourself.

You may want to consider living in a different setting, possibly with other supportive family members. You will need to have a wider support system within the family for you to help yourself and live somewhere safe where you will be cared for. It’s important to remember that just because your parent has denied treatment doesn’t mean they won’t try it later down the line.

Find a treatment provider to talk about your treatment choices.

If your parent has accepted treatment for their alcohol use disorder, you should provide options to them. Giving your parent options for treatment can be a positive way of showing support. Detox, residential treatment, inpatient and outpatient services should all be discussed between family, addiction counselors, and the individual struggling. Coming up with a treatment plan can help provide less stress when getting started in recovery.

What Resources are Available to me
Living in an alcoholic household can be damaging and traumatizing to children. This being said, there are resources available to you to learn healthy coping skills and to gain support. According to American Addiction Centers, there are two widely known group therapies you can become a part of.

  • Forgiveness Therapy: Forgiveness therapy focuses on the resentment and anger you may be feeling during these times. By talking out your frustrations in a healthy setting, you can begin to heal and forgive your parent
  • Conflict Resolution: This method of therapy focuses on helping you communicate in a healthy manner so that you can appropriately get your point across to other individuals with the proper skills and have more effective communication with others.

There are other support groups and therapy settings out there for children of alcoholic parents that benefit you greatly, one being Adult Children of Alcoholics which works similarly to the above therapies.

Professionals in Mental Health

When your parent is ready to seek treatment, you will want to reach out to medical professionals such as detox specialists, psychiatrists, psychologists, addiction counselors and other mental health professionals. These individuals can not only provide extra resources to you and your family but can help develop treatment plans and reach out to treatment centers for you.

The Internet

The internet is one of the best tools to obtain treatment center information as well as finding detox programs, support groups, and learning more about addiction and mental health. Many support groups provide free online resources to help people struggling with addiction.

Get Help Right Away

It is important to seek out help when your parent is struggling with an alcohol use disorder. You should not have to go through this alone and it is not your responsibility to get your parent the help they need. Contact treatment centers today to get more information on what you can do to help your parent.

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