3 Options for Dealing with Drunk Parents on Holidays

drunk parents holidays

Drunk Parents on Holidays

Dr. John D. Moore

Worried about having drunk parents on the holidays? Does the thought of being around your drunk mother or father during Christmas or New Year’s Eve make you want to run for the hills? Does your family have a history of drinking problems that seem to become amplified during the holiday season?

If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, you are not alone. I can share with you that one of the most common topics that pops up in session with your Chicago clients during the late fall to early winter each year relates to alcohol, drinking and parents.

To keep it real, who wants to deal with obnoxious, sloppy behaviors during Christmastime – particularly if you have young children by your side.

We’ve explored the issue of drunk family members in the past and offered some best practices for coping. Because this issue seems to be cropping up more and more, we thought it might be a good idea to specifically focus on mom and dad.

What follows are 3 tips for dealing with drunk parents on holidays. Some of these might seem like common sense while others will cause you to pause and reflect. Read them all in order to fully explore your options.

Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!

threee things sympathy message

1 Give yourself permission to leave

A harsh and direct suggestion but none the less needs to be offered. If you are going to your parent’s home over the holidays and are worried that there will be too much drinking going on, have a plan of action. In my experience as a substance abuse counselor, it’s easier to write yourself that permission slip in advance and have an attached plan of departure as part of the process.

Plans can include:

  • A nearby friend who is aware you might be coming over
  • Hotel or motel that you can easily drive to
  • If it is a multi-level home, a private area for you to escape

2 Be OK with skipping out

If you already know that mom and dad will be completely drunk off their behinds when you arrive at their home – or that it will happen during the course of the visit – you have options. One of them is to make the decision to not visit them at all. This point may seem harsh and perhaps even extreme however, there are some situations where skipping out altogether makes the most sense.


  • Parents who drink and fight
  • Obnoxious parents who become angry and loud
  • Behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable (i.e. name calling, embarrassing you)

3 Make out like a celebrity

Another option to consider to consider is to simply make a celebrity experience. In other words, just pop into their home for a few minutes and then leave. Here, I am talking no more than 30-45 minutes. Have some built-in excuses ready that are credible and believable.


  • Pop in right after dinner for “coffee time” and let them know you are making the rounds to various friends and/or other family members.
  • Stop by several hours before the main meal and drop off a dish. This might give you an opportunity to see if the drinking has started with your parents. If it has, you might not want to come back.
  • Just drop off the gifts as a gesture of love. You don’t have to stay to watch them be unwrapped
Do you really want to be around this at Christmas?
Do you really want to be around this at Christmas?

Final Thoughts

Drunk parents around the holidays can be a real buzz kill. And while your mom and dad may be dealing with a serious addiction to alcohol, it doesn’t mean Christmas or New Year is the time to help them address it.  

Ideally, the holidays are supposed to be about spending time with family and loved ones. And while some amount of alcohol use is the norm for many around this time of year, there are some situations where the drinking simply gets out of control.

If you have a family history of dealing with parents who become ugly, nasty, mean and vitriolic towards one another (or you) and you don’t want to be around it, don’t force yourself to do it. This is particularly true if you have young children or babies.

Remember, Christmastime is also supposed to be for you.