Research indicates that certain people can be genetically predisposed to addiction. In fact, one study showed that if when one twin has an addiction, the twin has a greater chance of developing an addiction as well. “Addiction,” says Mitchell Wallick, PhD, executive director of CARE Addiction Recovery, ” definitely has a hereditary component”. Research also shows that children whose parents were alcoholics are four times more at risk for abusing alcohol versus children of non-alcoholics. It’s clear that addiction can be passed down from generation to generation.
However, even if your children may be genetically predisposed to addiction doesn’t mean that they’re going to become addicts. The genes for addiction merely indicate that a person has a much greater risk of developing an addiction if he or she is exposed to a certain substance or behavior. It could be compared to contracting a virus. Someone who might be genetically predisposed to a certain contractible disease, won’t get the disease if he or she is never exposed to it.
However, once exposed, even then, certain factors need to be present before a person develops an addiction. Having poor coping skills and certain types of life conditioning can play a role in the development of an addiction. For this reason, parents of children who might have addiction in their genes can take some significant steps to help prevent addiction developing.
The following are some suggestions for parents who want to raise sober children, even if addiction is in the family.
- Talk to your children. Children need to know they can rely on you for support, encouragement, validation, and accurate information about drugs and drinking. When children feel safe in relationships with their families, especially parents, he or she feels secure enough to explore the world around him or her, and this can include exploring sensitive subjects. When there’s safety in relationships and in communication between two people, children will feel comfortable in talking about sensitive subjects – such as addiction. Often, addiction begins because of the lack of safety that frequently exists in early childhood homes. You can ensure sobriety in your children through safety and ease of discussing what’s difficult.
- Be a good role model. Of course, most children are looking at their parents, even unconsciously, with regard to their behavior, choices, and attitudes. You can let your life be an example of sobriety and living a full and meaningful life without drugs and alcohol. Your own habits and attitudes about tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs make a big impression on your child. Parents, you can empower your children to be strong, resourceful, and self-reliant through your own example.
- Stick to a practice. Routine, schedules, and moderation help a child feel safe. When it comes to alcohol, you might have a practice with this too. If you’re a recovering addict, for example, you might decide to not allow any alcohol or other substances in the house. Or you might allow substances with moderate use. Whatever you decide, stick to it. And make sure to talk openly with your children about why you’ve chosen the practice you have regarding alcohol and other substances.
These are suggestions for keeping your children substance-free even if addiction runs in the family.
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