The symptoms exhibited by a child from an alcoholic home are similar to those exhibited by any child from a troubled home. But the path to recovery for the child and family of an alcoholic is different.
As an educator, you are often in a position to see the debilitating effects of the disease of alcoholism. You can start the family on the road to recovery by recommending AL-ANON. You can also recommend ALATEEN, a recovery program for teenagers whose lives have been affected by someone else's drinking. In those groups, family members find that they can improve their own lives, whether their loved one is drinking or not.
Here's how one teacher learned about alcoholism:
I had the usual training for my work, but the training did not stress such unusual problems as I encountered working with Jenny, a child living with alcoholism at home. The gains I made with her were due to my knowing something about alcoholism through AL-ANON.... I asked to go to an open meeting (a type of AL-ANON meeting where professionals are welcomed). I sat next to a woman who asked me who in my family was an alcoholic.... I told her no one and explained why I was interested.
In a letter to his teacher, a child explains the importance of urging families to join our fellowship:
It's time I tell you why I've been so disruptive at school and crying sometimes.... You know something is wrong.... The reason I haven't told you before is that I've been too embarrassed. "You see, my Dad has a drinking problem. He comes home very drunk some nights and yells, then Mom yells back.... Sometimes he hits her or us for no reason, just because he's drunk. Sometimes my sister and I are so scared we hide under the bed crying. Now my Mom goes to AL-ANON where families and friends of problem drinkers go to understand the illness.... It works, too.... I go to ALATEEN which is for teenagers affected by someone else's drinking.... It feels good not to be the only one with my kind of problem. I think teachers should know about alcoholism, because then they would understand kids like me. If you know of any kids who have a problem with a drinking parent, please tell them where they can get help. ALATEEN really helped me.
At ALATEEN, teenagers meet other teenagers who face similar problems. And they see their peers are learning to cope with their problems in a constructive way. ALATEEN is a part of AL-ANON and can be reached by contacting the AL-ANON Family Groups.
Janet Woititz, Ed. D., a therapist who specialized in treating children of alcoholics, described ALATEEN:
The ALATEEN program helps its members understand what is going on in their home. It teaches them about the disease of alcoholism, and it teaches them to detach from the illness but not from the alcoholic. ALATEEN members learn they can change only themselves-they cannot take responsibility for their parents' behavior. They learn they can survive... they can even be happy. They may not be able to remove themselves from their family physically, but they can remove themselves emotionally.
These materials are adapted and reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA
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