Your Past Substance Abuse: Is it Affecting Your Kids?
Most parents have something in their past they’d rather their child never find out about: their awkward teenage years, that tattoo they got on a dare in some shady tattoo parlor, or even the story of how daddy met mommy. But, for some, that secret is a little deeper and a little darker; for some it involved a long and hard-won battle against substance abuse.
Be careful though: hiding a past of substance abuse from your children can be just as harmful as actively using in their presence. While it seems instinctively wrong to tell your children that you once dabbled in the very substances you are warning them against, not informing them can be counteractive to your purpose.
It is pretty commonly known that parents and other immediate family members influence a child’s perception of the world. Children mimic the behavior they see as a means of learning acceptable and unacceptable behavior and societal constructs. As such, logic follows that the same would apply when it comes to drinking or using drugs. Environmental exposure does significantly increase the likelihood of a child experimenting with drugs sometime in their lives, but the family ties to substance abuse disorders go beyond this type of exposure.
Scientific studies suggest that genetic predisposition to substance abuse can lead to a higher chance of one developing the disorder in their own lifetime. While genetics do not in any way guarantee that one will suffer from addiction, children of people with substance abuse disorders are eight times more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder themselves.
By not properly educating your child about your past or a history of addiction in the family, you may be unintentionally increasing these odds. Despite your best intentions to shield your child from a dark and dangerous road, you may inadvertently lead them directly to it. Knowing about your past experiences can help your child understand the gravity of substance abuse consequences. Information presented under the authority of a survivor rather than just a parent can be especially poignant.
Think of it this way: if a certain type of cancer was common in your family, would you hide that information from your child? No. The same should be said for addiction. In both cases, prior information about warning signs and preventive measure can save your child’s life.
How do you talk to your children about your past substance abuse disorder? Tell us your story!
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About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.