GROWING up can be difficult for all children at times. But having a parent who has an addiction or misuses alcohol or drugs can make things particularly tough for young people.

This week (February 11-17) marks Children of Alcoholics Week. The NSPCC is urging adults to speak out if they are concerned about a child, while the National Association of Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) is encouraging children to reach out for support.

Last year more than 71,500 children in England who were subject to a Child in Needs assessment were identified as having a parent who misused alcohol. In that same period the NSPCC’s Helpline took an average of six calls every day from adults concerned about a child linked to alcohol or substance misuse, and the NSPCC’s Childline service delivered 338 counselling sessions to children and young people on the same issue.

We want to shine a line on this data to show how many families are struggling with this and to encourage people speak up, so children and families can be supported. One 15-year-old girl told Childline counsellors: “My mum is up and down, sometimes she’s fine and sober but it can quickly change and she becomes worse again. She gets abusive when she’s drunk and gets angry at me and my sisters. I don’t like being at home.”

Living with a parent who misuses alcohol can leave children feeling isolated, confused and ashamed. It’s an issue often not talked about within a family and attempts are made to hide it. But secrecy makes it difficult for anyone else to notice and provide support, so we’re urging adults to look out for the signs and to encourage those impacted to seek help.

Not every family will experience alcohol or substance misuse the same way, but there are signs to look out for. Parents might clearly be under the influence of alcohol, or they might appear more emotional, irrational or unpredictable or become aggressive at home. Children living in these environments might become withdrawn or develop behavioural, emotional or mental health problems. They may have taken on responsibility of caring for parents or siblings, or might appear unkempt or unclean.

Our Childline counsellors are here to support children and young people living with a parent with addiction. Every child deserves to feel safe at home, nobody has to cope alone. Childline is on 0800 1111 and the phone number won’t appear on a bill. Adults concerned about the welfare of a child can call 0808 800 5000 or email For Nacoa call 0800 358 3456 or email