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Understanding the impact of parental alcohol abuse on kids

Millions of kids have at least one parent who suffers from problems with alcohol. If you're divorcing a co-parent who abuses alcohol, you likely have seen the impact of that abuse on your children. If your co-parent hasn't admitted that they have a problem, hasn't sought help or has been unsuccessful in maintaining their sobriety, you may be seeking sole custody of your children to help ensure their physical and emotional well-being. You may also be requesting that your co-parent's visits with the kids be supervised.

If you have a custody battle with your co-parent on your hands, it's important to understand that psychologists and other parenting experts have documented the short-term and long-term impacts of a parent with alcohol issues on kids. Let's discuss a few of those impacts.

Increased anxiety and stress

Excessive drinking can cause erratic behavior. When kids don't know what to expect from a parent at any given time, they're bound to be anxious. Further, kids worry about their parents -- whether we realize it or not. They're likely to be concerned about the well-being of a parent with an alcohol dependency. If they're old enough, they may have learned to take care of their parent when they're intoxicated -- "parenting" their parent, in a sense.

Lack of structure

As one psychologist explains, "Children do best when they have a predictable, stable environment. When you have an alcoholic…parent, that structure may be missing." That can impair their ability to develop into a responsible adult who can regulate their own behavior if they don't see it modeled for them.

Impact on self-worth

Kids develop their sense of self-confidence largely through positive reinforcement by their parents. However, if they have a parent whose alcohol abuse makes them verbally and/or physically abusive, they may never develop a healthy amount of self-esteem. Particularly when they're young, kids can't comprehend that a parent's words or actions are being driven by alcohol and aren't a reflection on them.

Naturally, all of these things can cause children of parents with alcohol problems to grow up to have trust issues, relationship problems and a lack of self-worth.

While you likely want your children to maintain some relationship with their mom or dad, despite their issues, your responsibility is for their safety and well-being. Your Arizona family law attorney can help you work toward a custody and visitation arrangement that's best for your kids.

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