More than 28 million Americans are children of alcoholics, yet many of them remain in the dark about addiction. And that's a frightening thing, considering genetics account for about half the risk of developing a dependency on drugs or alcohol.
What does all this talk about genetics mean for your kids? Well, if you have one or more blood relatives with a drug or alcohol problem, your children are (statistically) at a much higher risk of suffering from one.
Take a Deep Breath...Our Teens Aren't Doomed
Even though teenagers may inherit a propensity towards substance abuse, not every child falls victim to it. Thankfully, other factors - such as environmental or past trauma - play a large part, too.
As parents, it’s important to safeguard our teens against addiction as much as we possibly can. And a great place to start is by following these simple tips:
- Talk About It: Explain the nature of the beast so your teen can have a clear picture what they’re up against. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. There is no cure, but that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. In fact, recovery is possible through a variety of mediums, such as meetings, therapy and/or medication.
- Be Honest and Open: Teens can see right through you as you steadily gloss over the situation, so be thorough and completely candid about your family’s past with addiction. This will not only help in creating awareness, but it will also open the door for them to feel comfortable in talking about addiction with you down the road.
- Let it Go: Release the shame associated with substance abuse. Unfortunately, chemical dependency still carries a heavy societal stigma, so it’s important not to approach the subject with blame. Skip the judgments and stick to the facts. Let teens know that it isn’t a choice – it’s a disease of the brain that can affect anyone, of any profession, at any time. It’s equally important for them to understand it’s not their fault that other family members are addicted. After all, they’re just as powerless to stop addiction as those struggling with it first-hand.
Honoring Our Kids With the Truth
In short, honesty is the best policy when discussing addiction with your teen. Having an open line of communication will ultimately be one of your most powerful weapons against chemical dependency. And what's more, it will help your teen beat the odds of succumbing to substance abuse down the road.
So, go ahead...tell the truth.
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