Alateen is a recovery group for adolescents ages 9–19 that helps children and teenagers who are relatives or friends of alcoholics cope with the issues of alcoholism that are affecting their lives in some way. Alateen was founded in 1957 as a part of its parent organization, Al-Anon Family Groups. Every Alateen group is sponsored by an active Al-Anon member who provides guidance and support for its meetings. The structure of Alateen’s meetings is based on the Al-Anon Steps, Traditions, and Concepts of Service (based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model), and each sponsor acts as a guide to help the group stay focused on its goals.
To become a member, the adolescent need only be a family member or friend of an alcoholic and not be affiliated with any other organization. A parent suffering from alcoholism is the most likely reason why adolescents seek support from Alateen.
In Alateen’s groups, members are taught that alcoholism is a disease that affects the entire family. While the alcoholic directly deals with the symptoms of alcoholism, children of alcoholic parents struggle with multiple developmental, emotional, and behavioral problems. Children may feel denial, shame, guilt, humiliation, anger, anxiety, disappointment, distrust, rejection, or lack of self-confidence, making it difficult for them to function in social settings with their peers and sufficiently build relationships. Young children especially may struggle to differentiate between right and wrong since their parents’ model of erratic behavior can fluctuate in consistency. Older children may feel stigmatized by having an alcoholic parent and may feel at a loss when it comes to ‘normal’ activities other children engage in.
Members are taught that alcoholism can affect anyone and is a compulsive disorder. Although they may experience the effects of alcoholism by someone else’s drinking, members are taught that they are capable of detaching themselves from the badge of alcoholism. They are not the cause of someone’s drinking problem, and they cannot control someone else’s actions or choices—only their own. They do not have to feel responsible for their loved one’s drinking, but they can work on their own issues while still showing support for the person. By focusing on their own mental health and well-being, they can improve circumstances for themselves, experience a satisfying childhood, and live up to their potential. Alateen equips members with multiple tools and resources that they can apply at home or school. Once members reach an adult age, they are encouraged to continue their membership by joining an Al-Anon group.