Whether food, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, work, screen time, or any number of vices, addiction can climb into a person’s soul and rule their life with a vengeance. Teaching children about the dangers of addiction is an important and ongoing process; mom is called upon to have age-appropriate conversations with openness and honesty, tone-setting discussions that mix in heartfelt warnings—to stay clear of behaviors that can derail their entire lives.
Be a Role Model
Remember, if mom smokes cigarettes, children are watching and may want to copy mom’s behavior. The same goes for eating too much, drinking to excess, and doing drugs. As always, actions speak louder than words. If mom is 75 pounds overweight, gets drunk in front of the kids, or is still living a hedonistic life, it communicates that these vices are acceptable. Kids need and deserve the best role model mom can be.
Sometimes, we have an ah-ha moment and just close the book on our vice, never to look back. Sometimes, incremental improvements are the best path forward, especially if we are particularly ensnared by one or more of addiction’s crippling traps.
Mom can teach age-appropriate lessons about addiction from a young age, starting with the importance of making healthy choices. Share stories about a close friend or relative who has struggled with hardship caused by addiction. Tailor explanations and discussions to each child’s age and level of understanding. By the time they reach sixth or seventh grade, consider volunteering to help at a homeless shelter. This experience can grant kids exposure to folks from all walks of life, many of whom have been marginalized by society due to their struggles with addiction. Not only will they learn lessons about empathy, kindness, and helping others, they’ll bear first-hand witness to some of the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse; these memories are bound to stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Create a Safe, Open, & Honest Environment
Create a safe and judgment-free home environment where children feel confident coming to mom with anything that’s on their mind or in their heart. Be diligent to not overreact to questions or confessions. Listen first, and remain committed to careful, well-thought-out responses to support and guide them to the best of our maternal abilities—while reinforcing their trust and willingness to come to us without fear of punishment or criticism.
Get to Know Their Friends & Discuss Peer Pressure
Get to know your children’s friends and their parents. Encourage them to spend time with friends who share similar values and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Establish clear rules and consequences regarding drugs and alcohol. Acknowledge that the media and pop culture often glamorize the party lifestyle. Discuss and critique these portrayals and together, reflect on the harm these messages can cause to impressionable young teenagers. Talk about peer pressure and how to handle situations where they may be offered drugs or alcohol. Teach approaches and strategies to assertively say no.
By the time children become teenagers, mom has likely had quite a bit of time to help them develop self-esteem, self-confidence, and coping skills. It is important for teens to exercise regularly, work on their goals, and enjoy their hobbies and interests. With the foundation of a healthy value system, teenagers should be prepared to think logically and make responsible decisions. If they’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or stress, encourage them to open up to us or speak with another trusted adult or a mental health professional. If you suspect your child is experimenting with or struggling with substance abuse, seek professional help right away. Early intervention is very important.
Remember that teaching children about addiction is an ongoing process. Keep the lines of communication open, remain engaged, and adapt your approach as they grow and face new challenges. By providing education, support, and a safe environment, mom can help her children make informed, healthy choices to avoid the potentially devasting effects of addiction.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” —James 5:15-16 NLV
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.