How to help an alcoholic parent: support and advice

Whether you’re a young child, teenager or adult, living with an alcoholic parent is something that no person should have to endure. The constant worry, fear and stress can be overwhelming, leaving an emotional toll that can last a lifetime. Despite the challenges, help is always available for those who need it.

On this page, we aim to provide you with insights into identifying alcohol addiction and offer guidance on how to help an alcoholic parent, prioritising safety for yourself and your family and exploring available treatment options.

Drinking in moderation vs alcoholism

If you are younger or inexperienced with alcohol, it can be difficult to initially recognise the signs of alcohol addiction compared to enjoying alcohol in moderation.

Enjoying alcohol in moderation typically means consuming it responsibly and within recommended limits. If you see your parent drinking one alcoholic drink per day, this is classed as moderation drinking. It shows they have control over their alcohol consumption and as long as they don’t show any negative behaviours whilst drinking, they are more than likely fine.

Alcoholism, on the other hand, is a condition characterised by an inability to control or stop drinking despite negative consequences. If you see your parents drinking heavily every day, they could be showing signs of addiction.

Here are some questions that you can answer that may indicate your parent needs help with their alcohol consumption:

  • Are they showing signs of increased tolerance?
  • Does it feel like they only care about alcohol?
  • Are they neglecting responsibilities?
  • Is your parent hiding or lying about drinking?
  • Does your parent have frequent mood swings?
  • Is your parent getting into trouble with the law due to their drinking habits?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it might suggest that your parent is displaying signs of alcohol addiction and may benefit from additional support.

How do I approach my alcoholic parent?

Alcohol addiction is a universal problem that can strike without regard for race, gender or age. Regardless of your or your parents’ age, dealing with alcohol-related concerns can be challenging. To get help for an alcoholic parent takes understanding and clear boundaries; we have provided advice on navigating this situation;

I am a child/teenager with an alcoholic parent…

It is essential to talk to a trusted adult, such as a teacher or family member, who can help you navigate the situation and provide the support you need. They can guide you on approaching your parent respectfully and constructively. There are also helplines (NACOA- 0800 358 3456) and support groups (Alateen) available for children living with an alcoholic parent and it may be helpful to reach out to them for additional support and guidance.

I am an adult with an alcoholic parent…

Approaching an alcoholic parent can be difficult but it is essential to do so in a caring and non-judgmental manner. Here are some steps you can follow:

  • Choose the right time and place: Set aside some time to talk to your parent when they are sober and in a calm state of mind. Choose a private and comfortable place where you can speak openly.
  • Express your concerns: Start the conversation by expressing your concerns for your parent’s health and well-being. Be honest about how their alcohol use affects you and your relationship with them.
  • Avoid blaming and criticising: Avoid blaming and criticising your parent, as this may make them defensive and less receptive to your concerns. Instead, focus on the impact of their behaviour on your relationship and their own health.
  • Offer support: Let your parent know that you are there to support them and want to help them seek professional help. Encourage them to seek treatment or support from a healthcare professional or support group like Primrose Lodge.
  • Be prepared for resistance: Your parent may resist your efforts to talk to them or seek help for their alcoholism. Be patient and persistent.

It may also be helpful to seek support for yourself, such as talking to a therapist or joining a support group for people affected by alcoholism. Contact helplines such as Drinkline (0300 123 1110) for more guidance on this topic.

Is there treatment available for my alcoholic parent?

Yes. Alcohol rehabilitation is a viable option for your parent to get the help they need. These programmes provide professional support and a safe environment for recovery. With the right treatment, your parent can regain control of their lives and overcome their addiction.

The best way is to seek care at an inpatient facility that offers alcohol detox and alcohol rehab services; Primrose Lodge is an excellemt rehabilitation centre that provides exactly that.

Detox services are essential in treating alcohol addiction because they help the body eliminate harmful toxins accumulated due to alcohol abuse. The withdrawal symptoms of alcohol addiction can be severe and dangerous and detox services can help your parent manage these symptoms safely.

Rehab treatment provides comprehensive treatment for alcohol addiction. These services include counselling and therapy for your parent. In a rehab facility, they can receive the care and attention they need to overcome their addiction and address any underlying issues that may have contributed to their alcohol abuse.

How to help an alcoholic parent - therapy session

What can I do if my alcoholic parent refuses help?

It is important to remember that the decision to seek treatment must come from your parent themselves. No treatment programme will be effective unless your parent is willing to participate and take responsibility for their recovery.

Because of this, it’s advisable to focus on the things you shouldn’t try to do when your parent is refusing help;

Don’t enable their denial…

It’s common for individuals with addiction to deny or minimise their problem. Avoid engaging in arguments or trying to convince them of their addiction when they are not receptive. Pressuring your parent may lead to resistance or further denial. Respect their autonomy while gently expressing your worries.

Refrain from emotional manipulation…

While it may be tempting to use emotional tactics to persuade your parent, such as guilt-tripping or threatening consequences, these approaches are unlikely to be effective in the long run. Instead, focus on promoting understanding, empathy and open communication.

Don’t underestimate the power of intervention…

If you are struggling to convince your parent that they need treatment for their alcohol addiction, an intervention could be an option. An alcohol intervention is a structured process designed to confront an individual about their alcohol abuse or addiction in a caring and supportive manner. It typically involves a group of concerned family members or friends who come together to address the person’s destructive behaviour and encourage them to seek treatment. The aim is to help your parent recognise the negative impact their drinking has on themselves and the family and motivate them to make a change.

Don’t lose hope…

It can be disheartening when your parent refuses help repeatedly. However, it’s essential to remember that recovery is a personal journey and everyone progresses at their own pace. Maintain hope and continue to be a positive influence by being supportive, expressing your love and reminding your parent of the benefits of seeking treatment.

What should I do next?

At Primrose Lodge, we understand that it can be challenging and stressful to have an alcoholic parent. It’s heartbreaking to see someone you love struggle with addiction and it’s easy to feel helpless and alone.

But please know that you are not alone and help is available for your parent. It takes strength and courage to reach out for help but remember that it’s essential for their health and well-being.

Contact Primrose Lodge as soon as possible. We can support you with the next steps in treating your parent.

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Who am I contacting?

Calls and contact requests are answered by admissions at

UK Addiction Treatment Group.

We look forward to helping you take your first step.

0203 553 9263