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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.


How Alcoholism Impacts Children Raised in an Alcoholic Household: Part 2


D
ear Dr. Steve:

I divorced my wife four years ago. Cocaine, alcohol, and marriage just don’t mix in my book. I have three children. During the custody battle I was unable to convince the judge that my children would be better of with me than my wife. My kids are 9, 10, and 13. I get calls all the time from old friends telling me how out of control my wife has become in the last 18 months. The longer my kids live with their mother, the more concerned I become about their emotional and physical safety. They love their mother and I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize their relationship with their mother but I can’t help but think that more harm than good is occurring as a result of living with their mother. Am I overreacting or am I justified to be so worried about my kids?

No, you’re not overreacting. You’re more than justified to be concerned about your children’s emotional and physical well-being. The professional healthcare community long has recognized that children raised in an alcoholic household are at risk for developing emotional problems as a result of being raised in the shadows of alcoholism. Not only are children who are raised in alcoholic homes at risk for developing emotional disorders, they are also four times more likely than children raised in non-alcoholic households to become alcoholics themselves.

The following is a list of emotional difficulties that somebody who was raised in an alcoholic household is vulnerable to experiencing.

1.) Overresponsibility: The child may develop the belief that they and they alone are responsible for the alcoholic’s drinking, their mother and father’s conflict, and ultimately the well-being of all family members concerned. This sense of overresponsibility can create a chronic feeling of guilt and self-blame within the child.  

2.) Anxiety: The child in an alcoholic home can be exposed to chaos, drama, and acting out by all of the family members. This atmosphere can breed chronic concern and fear about the situation at home. This atmosphere can also breed a generalized world view that the world is unsafe and danger perpetually lurks around the corner.

3.) Shame: Alcoholism exists in an environment of denial, deception, and secrecy. When the child experiences the oppression of denial and secrecy they get the message that there is something to be ashamed of about the family, the drinker, and/or themselves. This internalized message can lead to the child developing a shame based sense of self.

4.) Fear of Emotional Intimacy: Alcoholism can undermine fundamental trust and compromise the psychological, physical, and emotional safety of the child. These developmental bonding qualities if compromised in childhood can prove problematic for the child when they attempt to develop appropriate adult emotional intimacy.

5.) Confusion: Alcoholism is a destabilizing influence in the family. The child seldom experiences predictable and consistent behavior from the alcoholic. Structure and orderliness are disrupted. Mood swings, emotional outbursts, and inconsistent behavior renders the child confused and fearful, never knowing what to expect next.

6.) Anger: The child can become consumed with chronic anger at the alcoholic’s drinking and behavior and anger at the non-drinking parent for their lack of support and protection.

 7.) Depression: Alcoholism breeds helplessness, hopelessness, and impotence. Chronically experiencing these emotions can make the child vulnerable to depression.

Because some children of alcoholics may act like a responsible parent within the family, they may cope with alcoholism by becoming overcontrolled, successful overachievers throughout school, and at the same time be emotionally isolated from other children and teachers. Because of this, their emotional problems may present themselves only when they become adults.

Be mindful of the fact that whether or not an alcoholic is receiving treatment for alcoholism, children and adolescents can benefit from educational programs and self-help groups such as programs for children of alcoholics, Al-Anon, and Alateen. Early professional intervention can prevent more serious problems for the child, including alcoholism. Early intervention can help children address their own emerging problems such as those listed above. Consider getting children involved with support groups such as Al-Anon and Alateen.

You can contact Al-Anon at:

Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, Va. 23454
Tel # 757-563-1600
Fax # 757-563-1655
www.al-anon.alateen.org
1-888-425-2666 for meeting information
Monday-Friday, 8am to 6 pm ET except holidays

You can contact Alateen at Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.:

Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, Va. 23454
Tel # 757-563-1600
Fax # 757-563-1655
www.al-anon.alateen.org
1-888-425-2666 for meeting information
Monday-Friday, 8am to 6 pm ET except holidays


Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series—From Insanity to Serenity.

Pathfinder’s Checklist

1.) Consult with a qualified healthcare provider in order to assess and evaluate the extent to which your children has been affected by your ex-wife’s alcoholism and drug. addiction.
2.) Contact your local chapter of Al-Anon to get information about local Al-Anon and  Alateen meetings.
3.) Teach your children as much as you can about the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction.
4.) Teach your children as much as you can about Recovery.
5.) Teach your children how to integrate the Twelve Steps of Al-Anon and Alateen into their lives.

G.B.U.

Steve



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