Why It’s Never Too Early to Teach Your Kids About Addiction
It’s natural for parents to worry about their children’s future. And that worry seems to begin even before the child is born.
So if you’re sitting around with a newborn worrying about drug addiction, you aren’t crazy. Welcome to parenthood.
And while you can’t exactly talk to a child about addiction before they’re blessed with the gift of language, it’s really never too early for these lessons.
Children learn by example
If you have children over the age of one, you’ve probably seen firsthand how kids learn by example — because they all go through a period where they mimic a parent’s behavior.
But this isn’t an isolated thing. Even when they stop mimicking your behavior directly, they are still watching and learning from you. Even before your child learns to talk, they are learning about how the world works by observing your behavior. And you’re going to be sending some confusing messages if you’re often intoxicated.
Kids who grow up with a parent who struggles with alcoholism are more likely to struggle with alcoholism as adults. Part of this could be genetics, but it’s more likely that they’re mimicking the only example of adulthood they’ve consistently had as children. Addiction takes its toll on the entire family, and that’s why therapy for family members of addicts is important.
It’s really never too early to lead by example. And when your kids get old enough to understand what’s going on, they will see that your actions and words are aligned. You are following through with the behavior you expect of them.
Teachable moments are everywhere
You don’t necessarily have to make everything a lesson about addiction, but you can teach your kids about moderation and responsibility from a very young age. For example, when your kids are old enough to understand medication, teach them about the importance of taking recommended dosages. If they grow up learning about how too much medication can make you sick, they may be more likely to practice moderation as adults.
Whenever you find an opportunity to teach your child about moderation and responsibility, take it. They are listening.
Peers tell a different story
As your children start getting older, they’re going to learn about drugs one way or another. They’ll see that the media glorifies substance abuse and their friends may do the same. Once your kids hit a certain age, there’s a chance their friends will see substance abuse as a “cool” thing to do.
So if your kids aren’t getting information from you about substance abuse and addiction, they may only be hearing an overly-glamourized story. And if that’s the case, you certainly couldn’t blame them for succumbing to drug addiction.
Understand that it’s much more difficult to change a mind than it is to shape it. So if your kids learn about drugs from the media and their friends, it’s going to be harder to change their minds about what they’ve learned. At this point, they may even assume they know more than you and completely dismiss your perspective.
It’s always better to be the first to educate your kids on drugs and addiction, and to do this, you must start early.
It may seem inappropriate to talk to a young child about addiction, but remember that these conversations can take many forms.