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Alcohol, drugs and parenting

Support for parents or carers who are concerned about their alcohol or drug use.

Most parents or carers who drink alcohol or use drugs do it in moderation and are not a risk to their children.

But if their drinking or drug use becomes harmful, this is substance misuse and it can stop them from providing safe care for their children.

So it's important that parents and carers can get support if they're concerned about their drinking or drug use. We've got advice and support services for parents or carers who are worried about how their habits affect their children.

What is substance misuse?

Substance misuse is when someone's drinking or drug use becomes harmful or dependent.

By 'harmful' we mean when someone puts themselves or others in danger. They might continue to drink or take drugs even if it puts them at risk of illness, psychological problems or physical accidents.

Dependent drinking or drug use is when someone craves alcohol or drugs and continues to use them even though it causes them social, health or even financial problems.

How does substance misuse affect children?

Living in a household where a parent or carer misuses substances doesn't mean a child will experience abuse but it can be a risk.

Substance misuse can have negative effects on children at different stages in their lives.

During pregnancy, drinking and drug use can put babies at risk of birth defects, premature birth, being born underweight and withdrawal symptoms.

In later years, substance misuse can put children at risk of:

  • physical and emotional abuse or neglect
  • behavioural or emotional problems
  • having to care for their parents or siblings
  • poor attendance at school or low grades
  • experiencing poverty
  • being exposed to drugs or criminal activity
  • being separated from parents.

Worried about a child?

Find out more

Where to find help

Other organisations providing support to children and families include:

  • We Are With You
    Free and confidential support to people experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health.
  • Adfam
    Advice and support for families affected by drugs and alcohol.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
    Help and emotional support through AA meetings for people experiencing problems with alcohol.
    Friendly, confidential advice on drugs and details of local and national services.

Help for children

Sometimes children worry about parents or family members drinking or using drugs and might need someone to talk to. They can talk to Childline online or by calling 0800 1111 at any time 24/7.

There’s also useful advice on the Childline website for children worried about their parents' drug use or their parents' drinking.

Every pound helps us support more families