Growing up, I was fortunate in that many things came easy to me: getting good grades in school, playing sports, making friends. But this actually set me up for failure down the road, because once life’s inevitable hardships hit, I was unequipped to deal with them. I had no idea how to overcome setbacks in a healthy way, and I ended up using alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Alcohol, then, soon became my crutch; I drank to escape all the difficult situations and emotions I experienced as a young adult. This “crutch” eventually landed me in prison for four years – after a night of drowning my sorrows, I got behind the wheel, crashed into another car, and injured two people.
Being seven months pregnant now with a little girl, I find myself wondering what kind of parent I will be. Will I be able to teach her healthy coping mechanisms and steer her away from drugs and alcohol? Will I be able to prevent her from repeating my mistakes?
A Little Bit of Parental Wisdom
If you find yourself in the same shoes, I’ve included some recommendations which could reduce your child’s risk of addiction:
- Tip #1 – Lead by Example
‘You can’t really love others unless you love yourself’ rings true as a parent, as we must realize our attitude towards ourselves has a powerful effect on our children’s self-regard, as well. So, if we constantly put ourselves down, we’re more than likely going to transmit a negative self-image to our kids, too. It’s also essential for us to demonstrate directly coping with our problems, rather than looking for ways to avoid them. That way, kids can learn how to deal with conflicts head-on, instead of attempting to escape them through drugs and alcohol.
- Tip #2 – Promote a Safe, Open Environment
Children are highly sensitive to their environment, and they need to be nurtured. And because they experience so many feelings and emotions, they want to be able to share them with someone. If they know they can come to you as a sounding board or for some advice, then they’ll be less likely to isolate, feel lonely and self-medicate with substances.
- Tip #3 – Instill Self-Esteem
Multiple studies have shown a low self-esteem can lead to substance abuse, which is why it’s crucial to instill a healthy sense of self at an early age. We, as parents, should encourage hard work in our children, as well as patiently model, teach and assist them until they can clearly grasp what’s expected of them. That being said, however, it’s also important to understand when we need to “let go” and have our children take increasing responsibility for themselves, instead of us doing everything for them. The more they meet new challenges on their own, the more competent and confident they’ll feel.
We Owe This to Our Children
Above all else, experts stress there is no single right or wrong parenting technique that can keep our children from the grasp of substance abuse. After all, a large part of the disease is intertwined into our DNA.
With all that said, as parents or parents-to-be, I believe the best way we can promote a sober lifestyle for our children is by refraining from drugs and alcohol and serving as strong sober role models.
Additional Reading: Parents – There’s No Family Handbook for Handling Addiction
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