If you are a parent, one of your biggest fears is likely that of your son or daughter becoming a victim of substance abuse.
But there are things you can do to help protect your kids from addiction.
There are certain negative behavior traits that can influence someone toward substance abuse. You can vaccinate your kids against these problems by helping them develop more positive behaviors. This immunization process will help them establish a healthy self-image so they are better protected against trials and issues they will face.
Over time, even after they become adults, these behaviors will increase their resilience and enhance their serenity and emotional well-being.
The most effective approach is for you to model these positive behaviors yourself to set a good example for your kids. But you should teach them as well and, if you do, it will:
- Help them avoid problems with alcohol and drugs later.
- Show them a lifestyle that will bring them more peace, joy, and purpose.
- Bring you more happiness as you benefit from this healthy way of living.
The ten items below address many of the most common factors which can contribute to addiction. You can find more information about these traits in the article on “A Vaccine for Addiction: Re-learning How to Live” and the associated four-part STEPS Journey Blog series.
To protect your kids from addiction and enhance their emotional well-being, help them learn to:
1. Be thankful rather than feel entitled
- Let them hear you pray and give thanks to God for your blessings.
- When they ask for something they don’t need, normally say, “No.”
- Assign chores and require that they get a part-time job in high school.
- Don’t give them a car, but let them earn driving privileges over time.
- Expose them to underprivileged families and kids on a regular basis.
2. Enjoy life more by worrying less
- Model for them a personal lifestyle that is not consumed by fear and anxiety.
- Teach them how trusting God is a way of life that brings both wisdom and peace.
- Involve them in family discussions to show how you surrender decisions to God.
- Give them opportunities to make their own decisions and talk them through the process.
- Allow them to learn from their choices and move on without excessive drama.
3. Adopt humility rather than pride
- Admit some of your mistakes to your kids and ask for their forgiveness.
- Help them admit their weaknesses and issues to you, starting with small things.
- Let them experience pain from their mistakes, while loving them as the same time.
- Work with them on a balanced approach to tasks rather than demanding perfection.
- Teach them about the wonders of the unwarranted grace we receive from God.
4. Develop a healthy self-awareness
- Sometimes, talk to them about your feelings, including negatives ones.
- Encourage them to do positive things each day to practice being intentional.
- Periodically, ask them why they do what they do or make the choices they do.
- Talk with them about scenarios where they will need to resist peer pressure.
- Set clear and consistent boundaries so they understand what is expected of them.
5. Choose acceptance rather than resentment
- Let them see you forgive other people.
- Have them practice apologizing to others.
- Talk to them about the pain their negative actions causes for others.
- Avoid anger as you calmly enforce consequences.
- Pick your battles on big issues and let small things go.
6. Connect with others to avoid isolation
- Build your relationship with them, be involved in their life, and do fun things together.
- Have discussions on how to be a good friend to someone and what makes a bad friend.
- Expose them to positive choices for friends and let them choose which to pursue.
- Provide opportunities to spend time with peers who are a good influence.
- Help them stay busy rather than experiencing lots of empty downtime.
7. Make good choices and balance impulsivity
- Tell them about times you made impulsive decisions that did not turn out well.
- Occasionally, have them talk through their thinking with you before making choices.
- Watch for selfish decisions and talk them through a less self-absorbed approach.
- Allow negative consequences of their decisions to occur rather than protecting them.
- Calmly talk to them about where their current actions will lead them in the future.
8. Handle stress effectively
- Let them see you handle stressful situations with calmness and humor.
- Pray with your kids each day and make it a positive experience for them.
- Talk to them about stressful situations they may experience and how to handle them.
- Teach them to pray and how to keep things in perspective, knowing God is in control.
- Focus on listening and let them express their opinions without belittling them.
9. Become more self-secure
- Show them you are comfortable being who you are, even with your quirks.
- Teach your kids that God designed them as special and loves them individually.
- Pray with your kids, thanking God for them and the blessings they bring to you.
- Have them actively participate with you on some of your hobbies or projects.
- Encourage their involvement in hobbies or activities they care about.
10. Cope with feelings of depression
- Have discussions with them about building a positive vision for the future.
- Let your kids see you doing things for the sole purpose of helping others.
- Applaud them when they are kind or considerate to other family members.
- Have each of your kids be in charge of a service project that they choose.
- If appropriate, let them know counseling is okay and nothing to be ashamed about.
If you model and teach those behaviors, you will help protect your kids from addiction, and you will enhance their emotional well-being at the same time.
If you haven’t done much of this in the past, don’t beat yourself up, and you can start now.
Understand that in some cases there may also be medical or psychological factors involved. In others, a traumatic situation, family disruption, or even hanging around the wrong friends can influence someone toward abusing alcohol or drugs.
If your kids are already moving down the path toward substance abuse, reach out to others for assistance and support. You didn’t cause their addiction, you can’t cure it, and you can’t control it. But you can get them the help they need.
Wherever they are on their journey, you can help them improve their life.
Maybe, you can even save it.
Question: Are you willing to make the effort to help protect your kids from addiction?
Action: Build a plan and pick the behaviors you will focus on this year with your kids.