How to speak to your child about addiction

It must be one of every person’s worst nightmares to wake up to the idea that your child is struggling with addiction, and that you are not really best placed to help them. This article will explore the options and talk to the experience of both the adult and the child struggling. We will discuss addiction generally, because the symptoms of addiction, gaming, drugs, alcohol, screen time, do not really contribute to the understanding.

What not to do

Firstly, it’s is really easy to get into catastrophic thinking about addiction and habits, and their eventual life meaning for your child, it is just a natural thinking process to go to the worst possible scenario and worry what all this may turn into. From that place, the most natural thing in the world to do, is want to control the behaviour and the situation as best you can, try everything possible to minimise risk, to educate and force-feed information as to why it is not a good thing to be doing. The problem with that is that it has possibilities to go in directions you don’t want and won’t help:

  • Your child will distance themselves from you, declare you as overbearing and controlling.
  • You will have even less insight into what is going on.
  • You will have less opportunity to be helpful when that time comes.
  • It could add another ‘stressor’ in their mind as to why they may want to escape life in addiction.

Why do parents typically take this route first?

Traditional understanding has pointed to the idea that the parent, teaches the child right and wrong, and how to develop a sense of individuality in order to function in the world. The flipside of this is that we become too overly identified with the created image of ourselves and forget who we really are on the journey of life. We think children are a representation of our parenting ‘skills’ and then we try to force them to do what we feel is right. So our focus is continuously on pushing our child to do the things that we believe we will be good for them, negating their own ability to follow their path.

Does this make me a bad parent?

No, absolutely not – the concept of good or bad parent doesn’t really exist; it is immeasurable and subjective at best. Typically, if we are asking ourselves those questions, it is because we are conscious of what we are passing onto our children. That’s always a great start.

How do I really help my child with addiction?

It’s hard to surrender to this, but your best role as a parent, is as a consultant to your child, helping them develop their own wisdom. You really have no other choice, even force will not yield the results in your time. When you develop a helpful role, a child will be more willing to open up to you, and to share their struggles. You are then in a better position to start with, some of the benefits:

  • Your child will share their struggles with you.
  • You have an insight into their mental health and personal safety.
  • You will be there when they are ready to ask for help to change.
  • They will feel connected to someone non-judgemental
  • They will know there’s always someone to turn to when the time comes.

When this relationship type is developed over time, anything is possible. It can be challenging as a parent not to step in and intervene with difficult subjects. Of course, I am not saying go against your own intuition, if you feel your child is at immediate risk, then trust your own instincts, but learn to differentiate between your fears, insecurities and immediate danger.

What is really happening in the process of addiction?

Addiction is a common misunderstanding that people get into as an escape from the daily created experience of reality. Reality looks solid, like it is out there, and uncontrollable, especially as a teenager and times of hormonal change, things like friends, relationships, futures, parents and family can all look and feel overwhelming. To find a way to escape the pressures of life, makes complete sense, it is not an unwanted unexplainable fundamental problem with your child, it’s actually the system working perfectly as it is wired up to.

Dr William Pettit Jr, Dr Jack Pransky and Dr Thomas Kelley recently wrote in a research paper

“Just as there is an innate health-producing design behind every human system (i.e., gastro-intestinal, cardiovascular, excretory) we posit there is also an innate health-generating design behind the agency of thought; that virtually everyone is born thinking in an effortless, free-flowing way and experiencing mental health.”

What they are pointing to, is the innate wisdom inside of everyone, even and especially children, before they are conditioned with societal, religious and cultural conditioning about how things should be. If you would like to learn more in depth about this understanding, please read here.

In Conclusion

A mind that wishes to know and help others with their struggles must first have an understanding of itself.

Taking the time to understand the subject matter deeper would be a great step. In the process learning about yourself, you are in fact the medium through which the help may pass, and in that sense, it seems crazy not to educate yourself about the subject and about your own mind.

Becoming a friend, a confidant to your child allows the opportunity for change to happen naturally, even though something may be happening that you currently struggle with. Being a parent is a windy road of ups and downs, and you can never have too much knowledge and wisdom.

This article is written from the understanding that we are born innately healthy with infinite wisdom and creativity, and through uncontrollable influence, we become separated from those truths. It is pointing to the fact that it’s still there and always available when you look for it, in you and your child.

About the author: Jason Shiers is a Certified Transformative Coach & Certified Psychotherapist @ UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT). Jason has been working with addictions and mental health for over 20 years in evolving.