Living With an Alcoholic Parent: 3 Steps to Keep Teens Safe

What can a teenager do if they're living with an alcoholic parent?

Josh’s dad is an alcoholic. At the young age of 15, he simply doesn’t know how to cope with the situation. Josh wavers between wanting to help and wanting to escape. Some days he feels sorry for his dad; other days, he never wants to see him again. What can he do? What should he do?

Coping With an Alcoholic Parent

There are several things you can do to help your mom or dad - without giving up your childhood or sacrificing your future. The main thing to remember is that you’re not in this alone.

If you’re a teenager who’s struggling to deal with an alcoholic parent, the following steps are a great place to start:

Step #1 Admit It

Josh is hesitant to admit his dad has a drinking problem, but it’s the first essential step. Even if his dad won’t admit his addiction, Josh can. He can reach out to a friend, coach, counselor or teacher.

If you’re in Josh’s shoes, tell someone you trust about your parent’s problem. It doesn’t help them (or you) to keep it a secret. Staying quiet only allows the issue to get worse.

Step #2 Get Support

After telling someone about it, get help. For example, Josh’s school has a D.A.R.E. program and he could reach out to the officer involved. There are also Al-Anon and Alateen meetings across the country.

You can’t force your parent to get help, but you can find support for yourself. You can also tell your parent that you’ve decided to seek help - and encourage them to do the same. Above all, you must realize it’s not your fault if your parent continues to drink. Teens can’t control their parents’ actions.

Step #3 Be Safe

Josh’s dad has never gotten violent, but this isn’t the case for every parent. Isabella’s dad is a ticking time bomb when he drinks. She’s thought about running away, but most of the time she just avoids going home. Isabella keeps quiet, fearing she will cause trouble for her dad if she says anything.

Allowing the dangerous situation to continue isn’t helpful for anyone involved. It’s likely things will continue to escalate. If your parent gets physically or emotionally abusive when they’re drinking, go to a trusted friend or family member’s home immediately. Tell them exactly what’s going on and talk about the potential solutions to keep you safe.

Getting Out of Harm’s Way

If you feel your home is a dangerous place, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-SAFE or call 911. You can use the healthy coping techniques above; they’ll shield you from the parent who’s failing to protect you.

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