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The impact of a parent's alcoholism can last into adulthood

If you're divorcing a spouse who has an alcohol problem, you're understandably concerned about sharing custody of your children and possibly even of letting your co-parent have unsupervised visitation rights. You may have to go to court to prevent your co-parent from having the access they want. If you feel guilty about doing that, don't. A parent with alcohol abuse issues can cause serious short-term and long-term problems for their kids.

Increased anxiety

Even children who aren't old enough to understand a parent's alcoholism often realize that something's wrong. They know that their parent may have serious mood swings for seemingly no reason. This creates a stressful, sometimes fearful, environment when they don't know what to expect each time they see their parent. Kids need some sense of predictability and security in their lives that an alcoholic parent can't provide.

Older kids may have to become the caretaker for their parent, younger siblings and themselves. That's particularly likely if their other parent is now living elsewhere and isn't around to do that.

Lack of structure

If a parent's behavior isn't tied to anything a child has done right or wrong, that child can lose the ability to regulate their own behavior. Kids look to their parents to set the rules -- even when they rebel against them. If they're not held accountable for homework, cleaning their room and doing other things that most parents expect, they can fall into some bad habits.

Lack of self-confidence

Parents with alcohol problems often lash out verbally and sometimes physically at those around them -- including their kids. Even if a parent doesn't remember what happened while they were under the influence, children do. Those words and actions can stay with them for a lifetime, impacting their self-worth and self-confidence.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that people who grew up with alcoholic parents are more likely to have emotional and behavioral issues as adults. They're at a four times greater risk of developing problems with alcohol as people without alcoholic parents.

If you have a co-parent who isn't willing to admit they have a problem or hasn't been able to remain sober, you need to do what's best for your children's emotional and physical health and well-being. Your family law attorney can help you work to seek a custody and visitation plan that protects your children.

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