Alcoholism and Children: Your Addiction Affects Your Kid’s Development
There isn’t much positive to say about alcoholism. It ruins peoples lives, their careers, their families, and their relationships. How it does that is unique in each setting.
In a family setting with children, it’s unique in how broad the effects are on children of alcoholics. Not only are the children of alcoholics predisposed to be drinkers, but their development gets skewed.
They learn to see things in a dysfunctional situation as functional and their expectations never recover. Learn how drinking affects children, from the womb to the tomb in the article below.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
We all know you’re not supposed to drink while you’re pregnant, but that isn’t always an option for alcoholics. The worst time to drink during pregnancy is when most people don’t know they’re pregnant.
This is the gestational period before we refer to the growth as an embryo. As the cells are rapidly dividing and the early stages of the pregnancy develop the embryo is hypersensitive to teratogens.
Teratogens are things like alcohol, drugs, nicotine, and radiation. These teratogens cause birth defects that can change the viability of a pregnancy.
Fetal alcohol syndrome is what happens when a mother drinks throughout her pregnancy.
This alcohol-related disease affects the child’s development cause life-long defects. Some of the many include
- Small facial features
- Joint deformities
- Slow growth
- Heart defects
- Smaller brain
- Poor memory processing
- Poor social skills
- Heightened risk for learning disorders
The only way to combat this is to stop drinking the moment you realize you’re pregnant. If you’re trying, you should avoid alcohol during the whole trying period.
If you find out you’re pregnant and you’re concerned your drinking will affect your child, you must get help immediately. Now there is another reason to face your addiction.
Alcoholism Effects During Childhood
If someone doesn’t drink while they’re pregnant but becomes an alcoholic later in life, their child isn’t off the hook. Even if the alcoholic is a father or another attachment figure, the child is at risk.
Alcoholism isn’t a singular disease, most of the time. People don’t turn to alcohol in addiction amounts when they’re happy and mentally stable. It usually occurs as a result of or along with depression or other emotional disorders.
But how does it affect parenting?
In a study done in by the Research Institute of Addictions, researchers looked at alcoholic fathers vs non-alcoholics. They observed play settings with the fathers and their children at 12, 18, and 24 months.
Here’s what they found:
The fathers who were alcoholics showed less positive involvement with their child. They expressed more negative emotions when they interacted with them.
The alcoholic fathers expressed more frustration with their infant than the control group.
By the time the children with alcoholic fathers were eighteen months, they began to show symptoms of emotional distress.
They showed signs of anxiety, depression, and had more outbursts, like tantrums.
These reactions of the infants only exacerbated the frustration of the alcoholic fathers. Not a good combination.
As the children grow up, it only gets worse.
Though that study didn’t go past two years, we see negative results from other children with alcoholic parents. Including, but not limited to the following.
Taking on Too Much Responsibility
In a home with alcoholic parents, normal tasks don’t get done. The child, seeing their parent as unable, takes on an adult like role. If they have younger siblings, they become a parent figure.
Cooking or attempting to cook dinner, putting siblings to bed, even dragging drunk parents up off the floor. These are things children shouldn’t have to worry about.
Their main developmental job is to play and learn through play. When you put this much pressure on them that early, they become perfectionists or workaholics.
Once they’re out in the world, this can go one of two ways. They either continue on a path of judgment and perfectionism or go the opposite direction.
Some children feel like they didn’t get a childhood and regress to irresponsible behaviors once they’re out of the house.
Don’t Understand Normal
If you ask someone who doesn’t have an alcoholic in their life what a normal relationship is, their definition will likely match societies. They grew up understanding normal, not having to guess at what it’s like.
If a child grows up having to take care of someone that verbally abuses them, that’s their normal. They won’t stand up to verbal abuse in their lives and get into similar abusive relationships.
We even see the cycle of abuse repeating itself if the alcoholic parent abused their child. The child learned that abuse was OK and is more likely to abuse their partners or own children.
Alcoholism’s effects on children start a nasty, reoccurring cycle.
They Constantly Seek Approval
Even if the alcoholic parent wasn’t physically or verbally abusive, neglect is a type of abuse. If the child felt neglected, like their needs weren’t important, they carry that into their adult life.
This, other people, first mentality makes them people pleasers. They’re less likely to stand up for themselves or say no in a situation where they’re uncomfortable.
A Myriad of Effects
There isn’t one child with alcoholism in their lives that experience one of these symptoms alone. They all build on each other and their development will never be the same as other kids.
Even with therapy and a dedication to healing, their brains learned at a young age to function differently.
In a way, these children are scarred for life.
Save Your Children
If you’re reading this article because you’re afraid you’re affecting your child’s development, it’s not too late. Alcoholism is a disease and we don’t blame you for your addiction.
You’re taking a step in the right direction by even reading this article! We know you love your child, so it’s time to get serious about getting help.
You don’t have to search high and low. We’ve helped tons of people stop drinking and we can help you too.
If you can’t do it for you, do it for your child! They didn’t do anything to deserve the effects above.