9 Tips For Adult Children Of Alcoholic Parents Who Want To Help

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated July 20, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Debra Halseth, LCSW

Growing up in an alcoholic household is not always easy and you might feel fortunate that things haven’t turned out worse than they did. Alcoholic parents aren’t always good at paying attention to the needs of their children. They’re so addicted to drinking that they constantly focus on having their next drink rather than doing what needs to be done as parents. This can lead to many issues and it isn’t uncommon for children to have to deal with neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and other terrible things because of alcoholism in the home. Adult children of alcoholic parents might still care about their parents deeply even if one or more of those parents is an alcoholic.

You want to be able to help your alcoholic parent, but it’s not easy to figure out what you can do to make a difference, especially when it feels like an alcoholic cannot love you back. The grip of alcoholism is strong and it isn’t always going to be possible to reach someone with your words. Even so, it’s important to try so that you can help your parent reclaim their life from the addiction that has plagued them for years. Keep reading to learn about nine tips that will help your alcoholic parent to potentially break the grip of alcoholism.

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  1. Talk About the Problem

The first thing that you can do to help is to actually acknowledge the problem. Some people are nervous about talking to an alcoholic about their drinking issues because of how negatively they might react. It’s true that you might not have a positive experience and that many alcoholics become defensive when people bring up drinking habits. You want your parent to take this seriously because alcoholism can have terrible effects on the human body. However, you can’t help to guide your parent toward a path of healing unless you confront the issue. Keep in mind that you might not be able to help if your parent is particularly dangerous. For example, if your alcoholic parent is abusive in any way, then it might be best to stay away and call professionals to see if they can help them out.

  1. Set Up an Intervention

Interventions are sometimes going to be effective ways of getting an alcoholic to realize that they’re having a problem. Many alcoholics can’t see that alcohol abuse is having such a horrible impact on their lives. Having an intervention is a way to shed light on what is happening while trying to convince the alcoholic to take steps to change things. Many adult children of alcoholics pair interventions with offers to send their parents to a rehab facility. It isn’t easy to pull off an intervention, but if you can do so, then it’ll have a chance to help your parent get better and start taking things seriously for once.

Take the time to talk to other family members and family friends about what you plan to do. It’s good to have more people at the intervention who want to help your parent. As the child of an alcoholic, you’re going to have one of the most personal reasons to want to do this. However, it can also be helpful for your parent to hear from friends, religious leaders, or anyone else that they respect. They can talk about how they care about your parent and want to see them get better so that they can thrive again. Interventions aren’t always successful, but it could be worth it to try.

  1. Contact a Rehab Facility

Contacting a rehab facility is another option that you can consider. If your parent is willing to consider going to rehab, then you’ll just have to find a way to make it happen. Depending on your financial situation, you might be able to help your parent pay for the rehab that they need. You don’t have to feel obligated to do this, though. Not everyone is in a position where they can help in this fashion and it can be a huge hurdle to overcome. If your family is in a good financial position, then paying for rehab might not be a huge problem. You can call a facility and set things up so that your parent can start getting help. It’s very common for adult children of alcoholics to contact rehab facilities and try to work things out.

  1. Provide Emotional Support

One of the things that your parent is going to need the most is emotional support. Going through alcohol withdrawals is going to be tough and things aren’t easy once someone commits to getting sober. Adult children of alcoholics can be there to support their parents if they choose to be. You can show your parent that you still love them despite the things that have happened and that you genuinely want them to get better so that they can enjoy life once again. If you’re able to make yourself available to be a support during this time, then your parent is going to have a better chance of success. Recovering alcoholics need support systems in place so that they can stay on the right path.

  1. Support Your Other Parent

Your other parent is going to need strength during this trying time as well. Growing up in an alcoholic home was tough on you, but it was also likely tough on your other parent. Try to be there for them while they process what is happening and do your best to get them help if they need it. Your other parent could be suffering emotionally because of years of neglect and worry. As much as your alcoholic parent needs your support, it’s still going to be important to remember that your other parent is also struggling with things. Be a positive presence in the life of both of your parents if you can be.

  1. Remove Alcohol Triggers

Another way to help your parent to succeed in recovering from alcohol addiction is to remove alcohol triggers. Some people like to drink when they do specific things and others will be driven to start drinking when certain things happen. You have to be able to assess the type of alcoholic that your parent is so that you can remove these alcohol triggers. Some people feel the urge to drink when they’re smoking and others might be driven to drink when certain negative things happen. Do what you can to remove these things from the environment so that your parent can stay sober.

Avoiding these things won’t always be possible, but it’s important to be careful when someone is newly sober. As someone gains strength and further distances themselves from alcohol addiction, it’s going to be possible for them to resist temptations. Not everyone is going to have an easy time resisting temptations even when they have been sober for years, though. Think back to what occurred in your alcoholic home and try to remember what triggered the drinking to happen. As the child of an alcoholic, you probably remember a lot of what happened vividly. If you can recognize things that seemed to trigger drinking binges, then you might be able to make a huge difference in your parent’s sobriety journey.

  1. Help Your Parent Find Healthy Things to Do

Finding healthy activities for your parent to do will be a great way to get them feeling better. Your parent might have spent a lot of time drinking and this could mean that they aren’t in the best shape. Try to get them up and moving if it’s possible to do so. You could encourage your parent to work out so that they can feel better physically. Doing some things to exercise with your parent could be a good way to keep them engaged in the process. This isn’t just about finding ways to exercise, though, as it’s also positive to find fun activities that give your parent something nice to focus on.

You can seek out fun hobbies that your parent can enjoy. Some people might be interested in physical hobbies and others might like collecting things, reading books, or any number of other activities. Encourage healthy activities and take an interest in them. This could be one of the secret weapons that will help your parent to stay sober. Adult children can do a lot to help their parents stay on the right path.

  1. Try Not to Get Too Angry at Setbacks

It’s also going to be best to try not to get too angry at setbacks. You will be disappointed and frustrated if your parent falls off the wagon and drinks again. This does happen sometimes when an alcoholic is trying to find sobriety. Not everyone has an easy time dealing with things and some of them might break and have moments of weakness. This doesn’t mean that everything that you have done has been for nothing. If you can encourage your parent to start trying again after a setback, then that’s going to be the best way to get things back on track. You don’t have to face this alone either and many people find that they need professional help to maintain sobriety.

Ready to Help Someone You Love Who's Living With Alcoholism?
  1. Contact a Therapist 

A therapist might be able to help you out with your alcoholic parent in various ways. There could be reasons why your parent is dealing with alcoholism. If your parent has the opportunity to speak to a therapist, then this could help them to cope with various problems that they’re experiencing. It’s a great way to improve mental health while also promoting healthy actions that will help to prevent relapses. Alcoholics need emotional support and other members of your family might need assistance, too.

As the child of an alcoholic, you could have some emotional issues that you’d like to talk about. Some people benefit from having therapy sessions with their parents and others seek individual counseling. Either way, you’re going to have options to consider so you don’t have to go it alone. You can try online therapy if you want to do things as discreetly as possible. Both online therapy and traditional therapy can work wonders and it’ll feel great to know that you have professional support when you’re dealing with tough times. Don’t hesitate to contact a therapist if you’d like some assistance with everything that your family has been going through.

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