There’s certainly a genetic component to alcohol addiction, but that doesn’t mean that kids of alcoholic parents are doomed to repeat the cycle. If you struggle with alcohol addiction, your kids need extra support. Here’s what you can do.
Overcoming alcohol addiction and living life in recovery is a daily struggle. And if you’re a parent, that struggle is even more intense.
You want the best for your children, but what if they’ve inherited some of your worst characteristics? Could your genetics doom them to a life of addiction?
There’s no question that heredity plays a role in addiction. The UK’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has found that a person’s genetic makeup can influence their chance of developing a substance abuse disorder. Even so, there’s no genetic test to see if a child is predisposed to alcohol addiction. All we can do is look at their family history – and their current environment – to make an educated guess.
If your struggle with alcohol has you worried about your kids, here’s what you need to know: genes are not destiny. Your child’s predisposition to addiction is not a guarantee that they’ll become an addict. And even if your kid is at higher risk, there’s still plenty you can do to prepare them for a life without the pain of addiction.
Here are 5 ways to protect your child from addiction:
1. Get Help for Your Alcohol addiction.
If you haven’t already gotten clean, now is the time to do so.
Genetics aside, research tells us that children whose parents actively abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to have behavioural problems. These problems increase a young person’s risk for addiction. If your kids see you abusing alcohol and being intoxicated, they’re going to become desensitised. It’s easier for them to take that first drink as a result.
And there’s no way around the fact that alcoholic parents always have alcohol on hand. Their kids have more opportunity to sneak a drink and get an early start on their own addiction.
2. Know the Warning Signs of a Predisposition to Alcohol addiction.
The warning signs of a heightened risk of addiction aren’t always easy to identify. One elusive but reliable sign is an under-controlled temperament (i.e. a pronounced lack of self-control). One long-term study found that under-controlled three-year-olds were more than three times as likely to become drug-addicted adults.
Here are a few indicators of an under-controlled temperament:
- Impulsive or wilful behaviour
- Lack of conscientiousness or social agreeableness (compared to peers)
- Rapidly shifting emotions
- Lack of self-control
- High levels of negative feelings
If your child has a biological predisposition to addiction and a combination of the above, then they may have an increased risk of developing an addiction.
3. Talk to Your Kid about Your Struggle with Alcohol Addiction.
Addiction is ugly, but anyone who has overcome it will understand how important it is to be open and frank about their disease. Even so, talking to your own kids about your alcohol addiction is a lot more difficult than doing so in a recovery fellowship or with a close friend.
Difficult or not, talking to your kids about your struggle with (and their predisposition to) alcohol addiction is important. Doing so also fosters a stronger relationship between you and your child – and that relationship serves as a model for others they’ll form in life.
This is crucial, as children who have strong families and good social relations are less likely to become alcohol addicts.
4. Encourage Healthy Friendships.
Children who feel alienated or isolated have a higher risk of developing an addiction. Likewise, teens who hang out with a drug- or alcohol-abusing peer group are much more likely to experiment themselves.
The latter is particularly important. Studies have shown us that adolescents who are exposed to alcohol use before the age of 15 have an increased risk for alcohol dependence as an adult. Complicating this is the fact that about half of those kids won’t manifest behavioural problems as a teen. But that early exposure continues to work in them – and may come out later.
The takeaway? Be mindful of who your teen spends time with. Their future mental health is at stake.
5. Be Extra Supportive of Your Child.
Every good parent wants to be as supportive as possible of their children, but this is doubly important when a predisposition to alcohol addiction is at stake. Teenage years are stressful. Difficulty with friendships, relationships, grades and work make life extra challenging for a young person. And people who experience long-term stress are more likely to abuse alcohol.
Don’t assume that your child is getting all the academic support they need at school, or that their silence on relationships means they aren’t stressed out about dating.
Make it obvious that you’re there to support them – and commit to being a steadfast, reliable presence in their life.
The Cabin Melbourne Is Here to Help with Family Alcohol Addiction
Being a parent is, hands down, the hardest job in the world. And it’s even more difficult when one or more of the parents struggles with alcohol addiction.
If you’re concerned about the future mental health of your child, The Cabin Melbourne can help.
Your child deserves the opportunity to grow up in a healthy and supportive environment free from the destructive influence of alcohol. If you or your partner is struggling to stay clean and sober, reach out to us. Our outpatient addiction treatment services are proven to help struggling alcoholics achieve their recovery goals.
And if you have a teenage son who has already displayed alcoholic behaviour or tendencies, our sister clinic, The Edge rehab centre, is here for you. The Edge combines cognitive behavioural therapy with physical training and mindfulness meditation in an innovative addiction treatment programme designed specifically for young men aged 18 to 28.