Having a child with an addiction is worrisome and heart-breaking. Parents may feel helpless and unable to reach out to their child. If your child is exhibiting signs of alcohol abuse, there are several things you can do to help today. You don’t need to face addiction on your own.
1. Research and understand addiction
As a parent, your instinct may be to ignore or deny that there is a problem with your child. Do not blame yourself or the child, or turn a blind eye and hope it resolves itself. Alcoholism is a disease, just like cancer or diabetes, and your child needs help to treat it. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has defined alcohol abuse as having more than one drink per day for women, or more than two drinks per day for men. If they are not of legal drinking age, of course, your child should not be drinking at all. But if they are drinking and you suspect their consumption is higher than this, it is symptomatic of a drinking problem.
2. Talk to your child about alcohol when he or she is sober
Like the dreaded “sex talk,” every parent should also talk to their child about alcohol. This is even more important if you suspect your child is drinking or has an alcohol problem. Do not talk to your child about it if you suspect he or she is already under the influence. Wait until they are sober, like when they first wake up in the morning. You want them to remember the talk and respond rationally. Do not be accusative or flippant, but also let your child know they can always come to you with any problem or question.
3. Do not enable
Parents want the best for the kids, and often want to protect them from serious problems. If your child is struggling with consequences from their alcoholism, such as getting into legal trouble or floundering at school or work, do not enable their drinking by making the consequences go away. Paying your child’s legal fees for him/her, allowing him/her to miss school, and lying to others to cover your child’s alcoholism are all enabling behaviors.
It is best to meet with an addiction counselor or therapist (without your child) before staging an intervention. They can help you figure out the best approach and what to say to your child, and prepare you for various reactions. An important part of the intervention is establishing boundaries (such as explaining what is and isn’t acceptable behavior). Even if your child rejects the intervention, establishing boundaries makes it a successful intervention because the seed of recovery has been planted, and perhaps one day your child will still get treatment.
5. Seek treatment
If your child cannot or will not stop abusing alcohol, you to seek professional treatment. This can be in the form of a rehabilitation center, family therapy, individual counseling, or support group meetings. In-patient treatment forces the child to detox and to stay away from harmful influences during recovery.