A report written today details how children are being impacted by parents’ alcohol abuse and the impact that this has on their own mental wellbeing.
According to current figures from the Department for Health and Social Care, it is estimated that around 200,000 children in England live with an alcoholic parent or carer.
As a child growing up with a care giver who uses alcohol to excess, life can be unpredictable and unsafe. Children can feel deeply isolated since their care giver may be intoxicated or unavailable. Alcohol works as a depressant and can change reactions, so that children cannot predict their parents behaviour. Unpredictable care giving is very damaging to the child-parent bond and the young person’s sense of internal security. When our internal sense of safety is compromised we often end up with mental health difficulties, sometimes which only become apparent later in life and which can be severe and challenging to overcome.
Some children of alcoholics also have a sense of role-reversal, such as Lily, who is interviewed in the article. Lily recalls wanting to skip school to ensure her mother was okay. Another adult reflects back on their younger years recalling how they would regularly help carry their parent home from the pub. Sometimes they had been left alone to get their own dinner with very limited food as the money was spent on alcohol. As this parent was their only caregiver, the did not have anyone else to turn to. They have a deep sense of regret that this was the case; it impacted on their schooling; life choices and relationship with their parent. They reflect on how they brought themselves up, there was no choice.
The government have pledged £530m will go to local authorities over the next three years for substance misuse treatment.
If this is something that has impacted on you or someone you care for, you may benefit from talking it through in therapy.
I am a child psychotherapist (UKCP Registered); a counsellor; arts and play therapist, covering Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. You can contact me here.