Being a parent in recovery poses numerous unique challenges. It can be overwhelming trying to prioritize your mental health while you try to show up as the best you possibly can for your kids. Another stressful factor that you might consider is whether or not your kids will experience addiction themselves in the future. Although this thought is not uncommon, it might help to reflect on both the nature of addiction as well as how you can decrease your children’s risks for developing an addiction later in life.
Explaining the Nature of Substance Use and Addiction
Addiction is a complex and severe mental condition that is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking despite the harmful consequences that substance use tends to produce. Addiction functions in the brain by identifying pleasurable behaviors (which in this case would be connected to behaviors of substance use) and continuing to engage in such behaviors to produce rewarding sensations to the brain and body.
People are exposed to drug use in many different situations. People take drugs because they want to feel good, to feel better, to perform better, or because they want to experiment and explore drug effects. Regardless of why a person initially engages in substance use, many people think that their drug use could never get out of hand. This error in judgment typically leads to substance abuse and addiction.
Risk Factors for the Development of Substance Use and Addiction
Another helpful fact to know is that addiction affects everyone differently for a few reasons. Research acknowledges that there are a variety of factors that contribute to the development of substance use, including:
- Biological factors, which include an individual’s gene expression as well as their state of development. Co-occurring disorders also pose greater concerns for the development of substance use, as people that experience severe mental distress are at greater risk of drug use and addiction.
- Environmental factors, which include any factors that are related to the home or social environment of an individual. There are increased risks for children and teens that live in an environment where parents or siblings use/misuse drugs and alcohol or engage in destructive behavior. Struggling with academic development or social connection can also put children at risk for using drugs or becoming addicted as well.
- Drug factors, which include any factors that characterize or define a drug experience. For instance, the route of administration used to take a drug is important in understanding its addictive potential. The drug of choice itself is also something to consider, as certain drugs are also more addictive than others. The earlier someone begins to use drugs, the more likely they are to develop serious issues with their own development.
How to Pave a Healthy Path for Your Developing Child
By understanding what factors increase your child’s risks of developing substance use, you may start to wonder what you can do as a parent to help decrease those risks. One of the greatest things you can do for yourself and your child is to be honest about your own experiences. Try to frame conversations about substance use and addiction in ways that cater to your child’s age.
As a parent, it is important to understand if your child experiences substance use or addiction at some point in their lives, it does not mean that you have failed at your job. If you believe that addiction runs in your family, there are protective factors that you can engage in to help lessen the risks of developing an addiction. These protective factors include:
- Teaching your child self-efficacy skills
- Engaging in a healthy amount of parental monitoring
- Supporting your child in their decisions
- Leading your child to resources when they struggle in academics
- Having open conversations surrounding drug use
- Establishing clear boundaries of what you expect from your child and readdressing boundaries as your child ages
- Getting to know your child’s friends as well as their parents
- Talking openly about mental health
Education is one of the most significant and valuable resources you can give your child. Certain school programs either follow abstinence-only methods or instill fear into children surrounding drugs, which do not adequately explain the facts of drug use and abuse. To prevent addiction in your children, educate your kids about drug use. Consider what drugs they may have already been exposed to, or what ones could potentially be problematic in the future. Allowing your child to hear useful information from their parent gives them an outlet to ask questions and initiate important conversations.
If you have experienced addiction as a parent, it is not surprising that you would want to do anything you can do avoid your child from experiencing it in their future. By knowing what factors increase risks of developing addiction and acknowledging the protective factors that you can engage with as a parent, you may feel more comfortable about discussing addiction and substance use with your child. It is important to understand that if addiction happens to your child, it is not mean you failed as a parent. West Coast Recovery Centers understands how overwhelming it can be to go through recovery as a parent. We want to help guide and support you on your route to recovery and healing. Through various traditional and holistic therapy treatments, we will help you to become the best parent you can be for your children. For more information, give us a call today at (760) 492-6509.