If you’ve struggled with addiction, you know that it’s the absolute last thing you want your own child to experience. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against you because the biggest predictor of addiction is having a parent who struggled with addiction. There’s no sure way to protect a child from ever developing an addiction. She may be genetically predisposed to, especially if you are, and she may face some life challenges that are out of your control. Still, there are some ways to help keep your problem from becoming her problem too.
Set a good example.
Kids don’t really listen to what you say, but they will always be influenced by what you do. They copy your behavior and assume it’s normal. They learn from you without either of you realizing, so do whatever you can to make sure they are leaning the right things. If you aren’t sober already, get sober immediately. Nothing you do will help them more.
Talk to them about drugs early.
Most parents wait far too long to talk to their kids about drugs. They think they can wait until their kids are 12 or 13, but by then, they already listen to their friends more than their parents. Start talking to them around age 4 or 5. When you give them medicine, be sure to tell them they should only take drugs from you or from a doctor. Keep the subject open as they age and look for teachable moments. Always be honest. Kids know when you’re lying or evading and you want to establish yourself as a credible source on the subject.
See a therapist.
We don’t always know what out problems are and what we unconsciously signal to others. You may be sober but still repeat destructive patterns. It’s important to understand the root of your own addictive behavior so you don’t pass it along. Your child may need therapy too, or you may need family therapy together. Kids aren’t necessarily aware when things are wrong in their heads, so you have to watch out for them and help them express themselves. This is especially important if they experience some trauma, like violence or sexual abuse. They are unlikely to tell you about it, so you have to notice changes in behavior.
Keep a regular schedule.
There are many reasons addicted parents have addicted children. One of the major ones is the anxiety engendered by a chaotic home life. It’s possible to have a chaotic home life even when you’re sober. Children need rules and structure. They need regular mealtimes and regular bedtimes. Knowing what to expect helps them feel safe and cared for. Establishing a regular routine has been shown to protect children even if a parent is actively addicted. The problem is that addiction typically interferes with your ability to be reliable.
Located in downtown Midland, The Springboard Center’s mission is to offer programs and services to treat alcohol and drug addiction treatment using an evidence based curriculum, 12 step programs, diet, nutrition, exercise, emotional, mental and spiritual development for a long recovery. For more information, please call us at 432-620-0255 as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.