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Addiction specialist warns parents on impact of their drinking on family

Thu, Jan 17, 2019

BBC journalist Fergal Keane spoke of the devastating impact his father’s alcoholism had on him as a child, and into adulthood. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times 

Parents who regularly drink three or more drinks a day could be “unwittingly” abusing their children, a HSE addiction specialist has warned.

Marion Rackard, who experienced parental alcohol abuse as a child, was speaking at the announcement of an initiative to raise awareness of the impact of parent’s alcohol abuse on children.

The “Silent Voices” campaign, an initiative of Alcohol Action Ireland, will gather the experiences of adults who grew up with parental alcohol abuse as part of a drive to ensure services, including schools, Tusla and the HSE, respond appropriately to the damage that can be done.

Ms Rackard said children, even infants, could sense when a parent or care-giver was not attuned to their needs, whether as a result of alcohol consumption or other reasons. This could frighten a child and was a form of abuse.

“If a parent is aware that after three glasses [of wine] they are becoming less available to their children, less emotionally present . . . that is doing damage. Attunement [to a child’s emotions] is the issue, the quality of the relationship.”

She said a child’s greatest needs, as well as food and shelter, were to “feel safe . . . welcome, to feel special” to their parents. They needed to “belong to a family and to know they were worthy of kindness and attention,” she said.

Alcohol abuse in the family, she said, was “one of the last [societal] skeletons

“We’ve had the sexual abuse, the institutional abuse. This is abuse within the family . . . unwittingly and unknowingly it’s abuse, it’s neglect.”

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