According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) one in every four kids is growing up in a home with a loved one who is addicted to alcohol. Ramifications are harsh.
Mary Beth Collins, program and operations director of the NACoA, says that “There’s been some important research done in the last 20 years that’s really identified the trauma and stress on the developing brain of children who live in this type of environment and what it does to them throughout their life.”
Growing up with an alcoholic parent means growing up in chaos, not knowing what to expect. As a loved one, friend or neighbor of a child of an alcoholic, you can often feel helpless in trying to make things better. But there are some things you can still do about it.
Do NOT mind your own business
Research shows that it only takes one caring adult to change the path of a child’s life. You can talk to the child for a few minutes every day, or send letters if you live too far. If you’re a teacher or a coach you can create a positive environment for the child. “Our interaction with the child can make a difference,” says Collins. “It’s the demonstration of healthy living and self-talk that can be life-altering for someone.”
Explain The Disease To Them
Providing basic information about alcoholism can make an impact on the child. Teaching them that it is a disease and has nothing to do with them allows them to understand that they’re not to blame for their parent’s behavior. NACoA suggests explaining these ideas to small children in the following ways:
Alcoholism is a sickness.
You can’t make it better.
You deserve help for yourself.
You are not alone.
There are people and places that can help.
Direct Them To Someone Who Can Help
Reaching out to someone who is actually in a role to do something is one of the best things you can do for the child of an alcoholic. A support group, school guidance counsellor, etc. “Pass it on to someone in the position who can help the child,” says Collins. “They may be the one person who makes all the difference in their life.”
You can start with The National Association for Children of Alcoholics for example, or if you were such a child yourself you can find support in Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization.