Partaking in alcohol is a common pastime around the world for adults and something that is accepted socially in a great many situations. But one area that many feel conflicted on is whether or not drinking alcohol is appropriate for parents. Even after ruling out the concerns of drinking while pregnant or nursing, there are many things to consider for any parent who drinks. Perhaps the most common concern, which will be explored thoroughly here, is whether drinking prevents parents from having a healthy and fulfilling presence in their child’s life.
Potential influence and points of distress for children
Most are aware, at least on some level, that drinking around children can influence them negatively. It may encourage the child to drink too, when they have the opportunity, and can set up a “do as I say, not as I do” standard that will leave children resentful. But often discussion about the emotional impact of having a parent who drinks alcohol is left by the wayside, after the main problem of setting an example has been acknowledged.
According to www.drugs.ie, “. . . some teens who live with alcohol dependent adults become afraid to speak out or show any normal anger or emotion because they worry it may trigger a parent’s drinking binge.”
Even if a parent does not drink to excess often, or is not dangerous or frightening when they drink, a child may still have difficulty sharing what is happening in their life. This can happen out of a fear that the child will trigger a drinking binge in their parent. If children are made to feel anxious not to upset their parents, it is very hard for those parents to fill a present and involved role.
Children who are made to feel that they cannot come to their parents with problems can end up in a vicious cycle: the parent drinks, so the child does not want to upset them, yet even if they don’t understand what exactly is upsetting, the parent will know something is wrong and may drink more to deal with their concern. In this way, alcohol can become a huge obstacle for parents who want to offer their kids stability and guidance.
Lack of attention while under the influence
It is common knowledge that alcohol decreases attention to detail and comprehension. This is one of the main reasons that things such as driving under the influence are illegal. But many may not be aware of just how unaware they really are when drinking alcohol.
Children who are around their drinking parents are sure to notice a lack of attention, however. According to www.theguardian.com, “12% of children said their parents paid them less attention because of their drinking.” Emotional neglect is a high risk even for parents who love their children and want the best for them, because drinking can cause a lack of alertness that means important things a child may want to tell their parent, or special holidays and events, are only remembered as a blur.
Children, even very young ones, tend to notice if what they are saying or doing is actually holding the interest of their parents. If a parent has been drinking, he or she may not be able to maintain the critical focus that lets children know what they have to share is valuable. An article from wwww.netdoctor.co.uk mentions that: “A functional alcoholic parent may not physically neglect or abuse their child but emotional neglect can occur and leave significant scars.”
Quitting drinking will increase present parenthood
While it is tempting to follow the line of thought that “a glass of wine or two after dinner won’t hurt anything,” there is a compelling wealth of information that suggests it is best to avoid alcohol altogether when it comes to parenting. Children whose parents drink may grow up to drink too, but they also are likely to feel ignored or unimportant, or feel that they must be careful what they share with their parents to avoid alcoholic mood swings or triggering a binge drinking session.
Finally, if you, as a parent, are under the influence, you are likely to miss out on once-in-a-lifetime memories and experiences that your child needs you to be a present part of. To be the most emotionally available for your child, it’s best to quit now. If you are suffering from alcohol addiction, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
“Parents who quit before their children are teenagers not only improve their own health, they lower their offspring’s risk for drug and alcohol abuse.”
– CRC Health