Most parents wonder what goes through the minds of their teenage son or daughter. The teen years of a healthy, functioning family can be tough enough, yet adding a parent’s alcoholism in the home can add even more stress, anxiety, and fear of the unknown.
Often children don’t share their thoughts and feelings until they know it is safe to do so, such as when the parent has several years of recovery under his or her belt.
Today, Teen Advocate MJ shares her experience as the 15-year-old daughter of a recovering alcoholic. Here are “10 truths” to help parents understand their kid’s perspective as the child of an alcoholic parent:
“Everybody basically forgets childhood memories, but something like this, they don’t forget. If a child says they forgot about it, usually they just don’t want to talk about it, or maybe they’re not ready to, or they’re embarrassed.”
“You have the awareness that something is up, that something is not right. I didn’t know exactly what it was, I knew something was very wrong with him.”
“I was in first grade. If a child asks and we are told what it is, we can basically figure it out. I remember the experience. You are very disappointed, and you know what childhood is supposed to be like, you know this isn’t what the father figure is for everybody else. I knew that this was not a normal childhood. I think the experience is going to vary at every age. But that was my experience in first grade.”
“The person I looked to as a mentor was a teacher. This teacher invited me in for lunch every Thursday and we’d sit down and I’d be bouncing on a ball and she just let me do what I needed to do, which is sit and relax and calm down for a bit. Look for a teacher that is caring, compassionate and one that you know understands these situations. Find a teacher that both the parent and student are comfortable with, and one that shows up and follows through.”
“Middle school was the worst part just because for our family’s timeline it just happened to come out that way. As I started to develop as a teenager, that’s when my eating disorder and anxiety showed through. It was a coping mechanism. I needed to control something. I found I could control this, so I went down this path. Basically it destroyed me. I couldn’t sleep some nights because I was so hungry. I couldn’t function. That was one of the many obstacles I had to get through. It’s still not over, it comes in its waves. We were able to get to the bottom of the situation. And help it a little and get assistance.”
“People don’t really talk about it unless it’s brought up by another person. People basically stay in their shells until someone can lure it out. I was able to express myself to a couple of friends. Several others I still haven’t. I don’t feel like sharing that aspect of my life. People tend to nudge it into a random conversation and find a way to say it, and then it’s over. It’s not really a conversation. Everybody is just in their own corners, and everyone is trying to get over it themselves. High school is a way to start fresh and act like that part of their lives never happened.”
“When I tell people some of them hadn’t matured enough to handle it. But those who have gone through it, they can empathize with it.”
“If I hadn’t met this disease in my family, I think my dad’s relationships would be a lot stronger, a lot healthier with others. The nights where we’ve had his little outbursts, those could have been nights where we could have made a lot of happy memories instead of terrible memories. We could have made memories that we’d want to remember.”
“One positive that came from this is that my relationship with my mom is stronger. She and I were able to come together and share our stories and we were able to escape together. And I think our relationship wouldn’t be that strong if it didn’t happen. I feel like when that happened my mom and I would watch shows, and we were able to bond even more.”
“Have gratitude for what we have. Basically live in the moment and notice everything we have right now at that moment. I had my mom. My Gammy. My dog. My brother.”
And Here’s One More Bonus Truth:
“Everything is going to be okay. When there is a fall that doesn’t mean everything is over. It could be a little bump in the road. You’re gonna stop for a second, regroup, and you may feel like it’s all over again. But it’s not. It’s gonna get better again. You’re gonna have your bad days and your good days. Just be grateful for your good days. Use those good days as a way to get through the bad ones.”
Have the courage to have tough conversations with your kids. Allow them the safe space to share with you their wisdom from their experiences. This not only ends their silent suffering, but also strengthens your relationship and bond as parent and child.