Find out more about alcohol problems and their effect on the family.


Find out more about alcohol problems and their effect on the family.

Information for young people affected by a parent’s drinking

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.

When drinking becomes a problem

  • When people regularly drink too much, they can develop an alcohol problem or addiction, often referred to as alcoholism. The medical term for this is an alcohol use disorder.
  • 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 and from all walks of life.
  • People don’t set out to have an alcohol problem. They often start drinking for fun or to try and cope with other problems 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. This is sometimes referred to as being ‘in denial’. Whatever anyone says, you are not responsible for your parent’s drinking and it’s not your fault.
  • Drinking becomes their main focus. They see drinking as the solution to their problems. They can become secretive, and often try to explain away how much they drink, when and where. The need to drink becomes so important that they may hurt and upset those they love.
  • There is help for people with alcohol problems, but they have to accept they have a problem and want help. For information about support options see Help for People with Alcohol Problems.

Not sure if your parent has a problem with alcohol?

You may find it helpful to look at our Other Person Diagnosis sheet.

Remember that Nacoa is here for for you, regardless of whether your parent has been specifically diagnosed as having a problem.

Is your own drinking is becoming a problem?

Many young people try alcohol and may sometimes get drunk with their friends. However, it can be worrying if you find yourself drinking as a way of coping, or if it’s getting you into trouble. Try our Self Diagnosis sheet and see what you think. You can talk to us about your concerns. If you have any worries about your drinking, talking about it sooner, rather than later, can help.

Hi, I am 13 and both my parents are alcoholics. I live with my mum who is the worst. When she isn’t drunk (not very often) I love her to bits, but I can tell when she has had something to drink and she is a completely different person. I don’t feel safe or comfortable around her.”

Helpline caller, 13

Alcohol problems and the family

Alcohol problems do not only affect the person drinking but also everyone around them, including family and friends.

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.
  • As the person drinking organises their life around alcohol, other family members can be left feeling unimportant and confused.
  • Family members adapt to cope with the drinking and associated behaviour. The problem is often not talked about and becomes the family secret. The family rules don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel develop to keep issues hidden from the outside world and protect the illusion of a ‘normal’ family.
  • 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.
  • This can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, loneliness, embarrassment, guilt and shame.
  • Worrying about your parent and problems at home, or being woken in the night by arguments, can make it hard to concentrate in the day.
  • It’s OK to hate the problems drinking can cause, yet love the person who is drinking.
  • Children of parents with alcohol problems can be more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, depression and thoughts of suicide, and sometimes use drink, drugs and addictive behaviours, such as eating disorders and self-harm, in order to cope.
  • Despite this, many grow up to lead happy and healthy lives. Being aware of the problem and having support for you can make a huge difference.
  • When drinking is hidden, it can be difficult for other people to know anything is wrong. If people do notice, they often don’t know what to say or do.
  • 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

Research suggests that 1 in 5 children in the UK are currently living with a parent who drinks hazardously.

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 young people 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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