Talking to the Children About the Alcoholic Parent

I grew up in an alcoholic environment, but no one ever told me that my step dad was an alcoholic; I thought it was normal for people to drink 10 beers every night. After all he went to work every day, early in the morning and never missed a day of work. How can that be an addiction? Many alcoholics get up early every morning and go to work, have families, and even go to church and profess to be Christian, but none of that can take the addiction away from them — it only gives them justification to continue to drink.

Talking to the children in the home is an absolute must. If the children are very young, as in your case, it is wise to not go into detail. Tell your children something they can imagine in their own minds. Their dad is allergic to alcohol and when he drinks it makes him sick. Tell them dad loves them very, very much and the reason dad yells, screams or ignores them is because of his sickness.

For a child to continually see an alcoholic parent drunk, angry, and or abusive with his mother it will cause emotional damage in that child. Some children of alcoholics grow up being an alcoholic or abuser themselves or marry an alcoholic because of the abusive environment they grew up in. This is why you need to explain to the alcoholic, when they are sober, what his drinking is doing to the children. Children also tend to blame themselves for the problems of their parents so it is important the sober parent reinforce in the child that it has nothing to do with them or anything they have done or said. Daddy is sick and that’s that.

Older children can detach with the parents by not having anything to do with the parent once they start drinking — that means even sitting in the same room with them. No one should be around the drinking alcoholic. The best-case scenario in this instance is having a basement, bonus room, or other room you can go into when the alcoholic starts drinking, so you do not have to be around the alcoholic if and when they start to get abusive, which usually begins once they start drinking.

Have all of the amenities one needs in this area of the home, such as television, small refrigerator with snacks, music, desk, paper, pens, books, games, toys, etc. Fix and organize this area geared to your particular circumstances. If you have small children have toys and games, for older kids have computer, laptop, cell phone, music, food and snacks. You get the idea right?

Teach older kids, 10 years and up to reinforce in the alcoholic (when they are NOT drinking) they love them but hate the addiction. Here are some things you and the children can say to the alcoholic when they are not drinking. The goal here is to separate the person from the addiction. They need to know they are worth loving and are still loved even though they are alcoholics.

* “I love you dad, but I don’t love it when you drink”

* “I love you mom, but I don’t like what you do or how you behave when you are drinking”.

* “I love you, I do not love the disease”.

* “I really enjoy your company, but when you drink I do not enjoy your company and I can’t be around you”.

* “Dad, you know I love you, right? I just want to say that it is how you behave after drinking that I do not love”.

* “I cherish the moments of your sobriety because it is when I feel close to you, but when you drink I don’t feel close to you anymore”.

* “I love you more than words can say but I hate it when you drink.”

* “I married you because ______ but when you drink you become a person I do not know.”

* “I’m sorry, mom, you know that I love you but I will not be able to come over and visit with you anymore as long as you are drinking”. I will do anything you want, take you to the store, cook for you, read to you and keep you company, but the minute you start drinking I will have to leave.”

These are not threats but the only way you can keep your emotional sanity intact while living with the alcoholic and they need to know how you feel and what to expect every time they begin to drink.

Always separate the addiction from the person. Alcoholism is something made that some people have chosen to dwell in, but if an alcoholic truly wants to get sober they will! God is our Healer and He will give the addict a new heart, a new mind, and a new spirit, but the alcoholic has to be willing — they must trust God enough to have the faith that God will do what He says He will. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:8

The loved one of an alcoholic can help the alcoholic by reinforcing the goodness of God in their lives. Loved ones of alcoholics can also be the Light of Christ for the alcoholic, not in a self-righteous way but in a loving way. Never demean, belittle, or look down on the alcoholic — this is not going to help them but keep them addicted! Be supportive of the spouse or loved one who wants to get sober, but still detach and bring in tough love when needed. Remember: Alcoholism is a sickness that can be healed.

Affirmations for Helping the Alcoholic You Love

Write down these and other affirmations you can make up with your older children and paste them around the home, on the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator, above the coffee pot, on the bedroom door, in a picture frame on the nightstand, on the table in the living room, anywhere you see fit.

* “God did not make you an alcoholic, it is the path you have chosen for yourself. Just as easily you became an alcoholic, just as easily you can get sober. God will heal you if you allow Him into your heart.”

* “People like to blame God for their problems, but it is not God, it is the choices we have made for ourselves that make the problems we have in life.”

* “Alcoholic is NOT who you are, it is only a hurdle in your life that needs jumped; let Jesus help you jump it.”

* “God loves you even though you don’t love yourself, but God shows us how to love ourselves properly so we can love others too. You are worth more than rubies to God, so let Him show you the way into His kingdom today!”

Alcoholism can be healed in mind, body, and spirit by taking the necessary steps to healing the mental, spiritual and physical aspects of addiction. We have experienced first hand the devastating affects of what alcoholism can do to a family. We have also seen and experienced God’s awesome healing powers and miracles work in our own family!

Never give up on the alcoholic and always keep God first in your life, whether you are married to an alcoholic or have an alcoholic parent or child, these principles work in the same way. Remember for total sobriety the alcoholic needs to look at all three areas of their being (emotional, physical and spiritual) to be healed, or the chances are they will drink again.