How to Parent with an Alcoholic Spouse: Coping and Caring Strategies

A glass of wine

Substance abuse is a touchy subject not a lot of people want to engage in. But it’s an undeniable reality that many individuals struggle with some form of addiction. And in the US, alcohol abuse is one of the biggest problems many citizens face every day.


Statistics show that one in 13 US adults has an alcohol problem. And teenagers as young as 14 to 17 have been recorded to have a drinking problem.


Addiction is a problem that affects many lives. The user and those closest to them are all victims of a vicious cycle of use and abuse. And many of these alcoholics become spouses and parents.


Life with a drinking spouse can feel isolating and demanding. But there are things that you can do to ensure a better life for yourself and your family. With the right care and knowledge, you too can raise healthy and well-adapted children, even in a less than ideal home.


Does My Spouse Have an Alcohol Problem?

Problems don’t always show up when you first start dating your partner. Oftentimes, your spouse’s drinking habits can come up after a long time of being in a committed relationship. Sometimes, you might not even know that your partner is an alcoholic until you start living together.


But drinking alone doesn’t make your spouse an alcoholic. There is a big difference between someone who drinks moderately versus someone with dependency issues. And like many mental health disorders, addiction isn’t as easy as someone openly choosing that lifestyle.


WebMD has made a list of warning signs of alcohol use disorder. These signs include drinking excessively, constantly craving alcohol, often experiencing sickness and hangovers, and having withdrawal symptoms after not drinking for an extended time. A person who experiences six or more symptoms has severe alcohol use disorder.


If you notice these signs from your spouse, then it’s time they need help. Alcohol dependency has many negative side effects, such as liver damage, heart disease, lung infections, infertility, and mental health issues. Asides from physical ailments, excessive drinking can also affect your partner’s social and family life.


Can Alcoholics be Good Parents?

We can’t generalize every person with alcohol abuse disease. Some alcoholics are incapable of being parents and don’t wish to have that life. However, some people also want to be parents but are hindered by their conditions.


Alcoholism can impact a child’s growth and development. A child living with a drinking parent can experience a tougher life compared to their peers. They might experience the following:


Abuse and Neglect

Children living with an alcoholic parent are more likely to experience abuse and neglect. Parents with drinking problems are more unstable compared to sober parents, and this can lead to altercations. Addiction can also make people neglectful to pursue more of the addictive activity.


Feelings of Embarrassment, Anger, and Sadness

Kids who grew up with a drinking parent might feel more negative emotions compared to other children. They might not want their friends and classmates to know about their family and life.


Mental Health Issues

Fear and isolation can result in mental health problems in kids, including anxiety and depression. Living with an unstable parent can lead to a mental health crisis for young people. They can also develop trust issues and difficulties in relaxing.


Financial Crisis

Many adults with an alcohol problem have a harder time keeping a job. Thus, money can be a problem for the family. Households may not have enough food or money for daily living.


Parents Divorcing

Divorce is one of the hardest events a child has to endure. Parents are more likely to separate due to an addiction. This can lead to a child feeling more alone, vulnerable, and scared.


Higher Odds of Being Car Crash Victims

An estimated 29 people die every day in the US due to drunk-impaired driving, and 17% of the victims are children. Parents who are alcoholics are more likely to take risky behavior, including driving under the influence. This can cause accidents for themselves and their kids.


Pressures to Drink and Repeat Cycle

Children are influenced by what their parents do. Parents can pressure their kids to consume alcohol, even if they’re not yet of legal age. This can lead to a cycle of substance abuse from generation to generation.


Alcoholic spouses and parents can raise healthy children. However, their addictions can lead to many irreversible mistakes that can traumatize a child. As the sober partner, you can do your part to help your child and your partner.


How to Raise Children with an Alcoholic Spouse

Being the sober partner means that much of the work will fall on your shoulder. Besides caring for the home and your child, you will also need to care for your partner and yourself.


To raise a child with an alcoholic spouse, you need to stay focused, vigilant, and most importantly, hopeful. Alcoholism is something that is heavily frowned upon by society. But that doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t deserve respect and decency. Likewise, you should also be there to help and support your growing child.


Here are some things to keep in mind when running a household with an alcoholic spouse:


Maintain a Daily Routine at Home

Children, especially young ones, might feel lost and confused when being raised by an alcoholic parent. Help them get back on track by providing them with a feeling of normalcy.


Practice daily routines like eating together, playing in the afternoon, and turning out the lights at a fixed schedule. A daily routine can help them feel more relaxed every day, and they won’t feel left out when interacting with friends.


Be a Shoulder to Cry on for Your Child

It’s normal for a child to feel upset when seeing their parents drinking and lashing out. But you can lessen the impact by being there for them. Provide them with unconditional support and love through confusing times.


Help Your Child Create Healthy Habits

Excessive drinking is one habit that nobody wants. However, children are easily influenced by adults, especially by their parents. And you don’t want them to pick up the bottle when they get older.


Instead, you can teach them better habits to release their stress and express themselves. You can teach them new hobbies like sports and music, or help them pursue their studies to be academically excellent. Find ways to deter them from falling into the pressure of drinking.


Provide a Support System for Your Spouse

At some point, your spouse might want to give up drinking. That’s great! However, you can’t do this alone. Addiction is a complex problem, and the withdrawal symptoms can make them go back to drinking again.


Instead, you can direct your partner to support groups, such as Al-Alon Family Groups. Alternatively, one-on-one therapy might also help your spouse in the long run. Whatever choice you pick, it is a step forward for your partner to recovery.


Avoid Self-Blame and Controlling Behavior

You might have the urge to blame yourself and try to control your partner’s drinking. However, this can do more harm than good. Understand that you are not guilty in this situation and that your spouse is the only one who can stop themselves drinking.


Protect Your Child and Yourself

Some spouses may not want to change. Sometimes, they might even resort to violence as a result of their drinking. There is no reason for you and your child to stay in a dangerous household.


If your partner is too much to handle, you and your child must leave immediately. You must find ways to protect your child and yourself from harm. You can stay at a friend’s home, a family member’s place, or a domestic violence shelter.


Understand that It’s Not Your Fault

Finally, understand that your spouse’s drinking problems are not from any of your shortcomings. You can help them overcome it, but it’s still your partner’s responsibility to help themselves.


Also, you should never enable and make excuses for your spouse. While mental illnesses like addictions are a tragedy, they are not an excuse for bad behavior. Help your partner up until your limits.


Living with an alcoholic partner can feel hopeless at times. But with encouragement, you can help your spouse turn their lives around and follow a path of sobriety.


At the end of the day, the most affected person in your home will be your child. They will carry many burdens when living a life with an alcoholic parent. And the only way for them to live soundly is to have a guardian who will be there for them all the time.



Alcohol has broken the lives and homes of many Americans and people worldwide. It has caused the injury and death of its users. And most importantly, they have caused turmoil in the lives of children and spouses.


Parenting with a spouse who abuses alcohol is a difficult task. However, there is hope within your family. And who knows, your spouse might one day put the bottle down and be a better parent for you and your youngster.

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