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19 Jan Helping Your Child Avoid Addiction

Addiction is a serious illness and it’s one that too often begins in the teen years. Parents are the best resource kids have to avoid addiction, but you have to know how to get started on supporting them to be effective.

Start Talking Early

The best way to protect your child from addiction is to help them stop it before it starts. Talk to your child at a young age, like 5 or 6, about the dangers of harmful substances. Explain to them how addiction affects our bodies, and how seemingly harmless substances can lead to very dangerous illness. Help them to practice saying “no,” and make sure they know they can come to you at any time with questions. Establishing these lines of communication early on will make the conversation much easier to continue as your child enters the riskier teen years. If you set yourself up as a source of knowledge and help, they’ll be more likely to come to you when things get tougher as they get older.

Focus on Trust

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of negativity and fear when discussing addiction, but you’ll have a much more positive impact if you can focus on the positive throughout these conversations, and in your interactions with your child as a whole. Some of the key points you need to remember include :

Make a plan with your child for how they can make responsible choices, even if their friends aren’t making the same choices.

Take every opportunity to praise your child. A good self-esteem is important for reducing the risk of addiction. Applaud their achievements, and let your pride for them shine brightly.

Help your child to get involved in extracurricular activities that they love. Success and having fun are important confidence boosters for people of any age. Introduce them to sports, art, music, and other experiences. When they find something they love, let them run with it.

Be a good example for your child of sobriety and healthy living. If you have an addiction that needs to be addressed, be honest with your child about it and let them be involved with your recovery process. If you need to quit smoking, do it! Let your child see how hard addiction can be, and how much better you feel without it.

Spend lots of time with your kids. Get to know them and let them get to know you. This is the only way to foster a strong relationship built on trust. Take an interest in their life and show them your love.

Know Your Kid

Parents who know their kids well are more likely to recognize problems early on and to be able to provide help for kids who need it. This will not only be helpful with addiction, but with other issues like depression, anxiety, and peer pressure that can act as catalysts for addiction. Your kids might act annoyed at your involvement, but they really crave the love and support that only you can provide.

Ally Keenan is a University of Utah graduate and currently works as a Clinical Social Worker and Substance Use Disorder Counselor. Ally started her career in 2009 working in adolescent residential treatment as an assistant program director. Since 2010, she has worked as a clinician with individuals suffering from addictions, chemical dependency, and co-occurring mental health disorders in both the Intensive Outpatient and Residential treatment capacities. Ally currently serves on the board as vice-president of the non-profit foundation Recovery Outreach; a 501(c)(3) organization created to help fund treatment for individuals suffering from addiction and lacking the financial resources to afford it. In 2010, she took the opportunity to incorporate her passion for animals, and their powerful healing nature, into her work through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). She truly enjoys facilitating Equine Psychotherapy, and life-skills sessions, as a form of experiential therapy.

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