Find out more about the issue


Find out more about the issue

Information for children whose parents drink too much

If your parent, step-parent, grandparent, or anyone else important to you drinks too much, finding out more about alcohol problems can help you feel better.

Elmo learns about parental addiction on Sesame Street

Why people drink alcohol

There are many reasons people drink alcohol. Some people like the taste. Some drink at social occasions such as parties or with family and friends. Others like the feeling of being drunk. Sometimes people use alcohol to feel calmer or to try to cope with problems.

Alcohol is a drug made by fermenting fruit or grains. Drinking alcohol affects the brain and the body, so it can change how people feel and act.

Alcohol can make people forget things. They often don’t remember silly, embarrassing, or other things they say or do when drunk. People keep drinking because the good feelings they experience outweigh any horrible effects, such as being sick or feeling ill the next day (a hangover).

glass of alcohol parents drink too much

When drinking becomes a problem

Many people drink alcohol without it being an issue. But for some people, drinking can cause problems in their lives.

  • When people regularly drink too much, they can develop an alcohol problem or addiction (commonly known as alcoholism).
  • Alcohol problems are like an illness, where the person has lost control over their drinking and usually needs help to stop.
  • Alcohol problems can affect people of all ages from all sorts of families and places.
  • People don’t set out to have an alcohol problem. They often start drinking for fun and end up drinking heavily and needing alcohol to feel ‘normal’.
  • They continue to drink even when it is having a negative effect on their lives, their health, and people around them.
  • Often the person drinking doesn’t realise they have a problem. Even if they become aware something is wrong, they may not think it is to do with drinking. They may blame other people or problems in their life. Whatever anyone says, you are not responsible for your parent’s drinking and it’s not your fault.
  • When someone has an alcohol problem, drinking becomes their main focus. They see drinking as the solution to their problems. The need to drink becomes so important that they may hurt and upset those they love. This can leave children feeling like they are not important.
  • It’s OK to hate the problems drinking can cause, yet love the person who is drinking.
  • There is help for people with alcohol problems, but they have to accept they have a problem and want help.

Alcohol problems and the family

Alcohol problems do not only affect the person drinking but also everyone around them, including family and friends. It can be especially difficult for children. 

See how a young boy called Toby is affected by his dad’s alcoholism in the short film Toby’s Dad or watch the BBC Newsround programme Living with Alcohol.

  • You can be affected by your parent’s problems even if you are not living in the same house or if they no longer drink.
  • The problem is often not talked about and becomes the family secret.
  • Alcohol problems can lead to other issues. Sometimes there are money problems, parents can argue a lot, or there can be violence and mood swings. What’s OK one day may not be OK the next.
  • Children may feel scared, lonely, confused, forgotten, embarrassed or ashamed.
  • Worrying about your parent and problems at home, or being woken in the night by arguments, can make it hard to concentrate at school.
  • When drinking is hidden, it can be difficult for other people to know anything is wrong. If adults do notice, they often don’t know what to say or do. Other children may not understand and might say upsetting things.
  • When no one speaks about the problem or offers help, you might think you are the only one facing these difficulties.

You are not alone

1 in 5 children in the UK live with a parent who drinks too much. This means millions of children like you are affected by their parents’ drinking.

At Nacoa, we understand what it’s like when a parent drinks too much. However you are feeling or whatever questions are on your mind, we will always try to help. We are here for you.

When a parent has an alcohol problem, it isn’t easy, but you don’t have to cope on your own. See Help & advice for ideas on ways to feel better.

Seeing what it’s like for other children whose mum or dad drinks too much can help.

You are not alone

Remember the Six "C"s

I didn’t cause it
I can’t control it
I can’t cure it
I can take care of myself
I can communicate my feelings
I can make healthy choices

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