Understanding and Helping a Teen with a Parent Who Has an Alcohol Addiction

Teens have a lot of things to deal with as they traverse the shaky ground of leaving childhood and entering adulthood. It’s hard enough without having to deal with challenges they shouldn’t have to face, like a parent with an alcohol problem.

Fortunately, every child has more than just one parent to support them as they grow up. From teachers to friends’ parents and community connections, there are a lot of adults out there who can help them grow up to be happy and successful.

If you’re one of those adults, and you’re watching a teen in your life struggle to deal with a parent who has an alcohol addition, there are a few things you can do to better understand and help them.

Help Them Get Support

It is so important to provide them with support. If they are reluctant to talk about or admit there’s a problem, simply offer to lend an ear any time they have an issue, no matter what it is. If you’re a stable adult in their life, they may eventually come to you about their mom or dad’s drinking problem.

If the teen in your life is a little more open about the problem their parent is facing, and they’re open to talking about it, suggest an Alateen  meeting. These meetings provide peer support for teens who are struggling with the effects of someone else’s drinking problem.

It Can Create Some Frustrating Behavior Problems

You may know a teen has a parent with a drinking problem, and you may know they have some serious behavior problems, but you may not realize just how intertwined they are. The effects of parental alcoholism stretch far and wide, which includes behaving in ways the teen otherwise wouldn’t.

A few examples of frustrating behavior problems you might encounter include:

  • Arguing with teachers and other authority figures
  • Acting like they don’t care about things, like having friends
  • Harming themselves physically
  • Missing school or avoiding doing school work

Realizing that many of these behaviors can be tied to their parent’s behavior can help you address them more effectively.

It Can Affect Their Family Life

Alcoholism in the family can affect the way the children behave, but its effects reach much wider. That’s why it’s often called a family disease.

There are many ways it can affect the family, including:

  • A parent that is unable to keep a job may not be able to keep the electricity on or food on the table
  • Older siblings may have to grow up more quickly and take care of younger siblings
  • Some parents may mistreat, abuse, or neglect their children when they are drinking
  • An accident is likely if the parent drives drunk
  • Parents may split up, or the kids may have to go live with other relatives

If you know what kinds of challenges they are facing, you can provide them with targeted support.

Be Patient

The behavior of teens with an alcoholic parent can be frustrating. It can also be frustrating to try and help, but feel like you aren’t really doing anything at all. All those feelings are normal, but it is important that you learn how to be patient.

A teen isn’t going to change their ways overnight, and the parent isn’t going to stop drinking overnight either. It may take weeks, months, or even years, but that teen will never forget that you were there for them.

If you’re struggling to stand by and watch the process unfold, don’t shy away from finding a support group for yourself. An Al-Anon meeting can help you help the teen in your life through this difficult time.

Reach out to the Parent, If Possible

If the teen is a student you have in class, and you have never met their parent, you may not be able to reach out. However, if you are a family friend or a neighbor who has known the family for years, you might be able to step in and help the parent with their drinking problem.

Every approach is different because every addict is different. Make sure you think carefully about what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. Just telling them that you notice they are struggling and you’re there to provide support can be immensely helpful to both the teen and their parent.

You can’t fix the alcohol problem they’re dealing with, but you can help a teen get through it with their head held high, as long as you follow the tips on this list.

This post is not meant as medical advice. Please consult your doctor or therapist before undergoing any treatment or intervention for alcoholism.

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