If there was a surefire way of preventing your son or daughter from alcoholism or drug abuse, then addiction would be less of a problem. We still don’t know all the causes for alcoholism, and addiction. However, what we do understand about addiction is that genetics, environment, stress and other factors can all contribute to alcoholism later in life. Knowing this, you will be better prepared for helping prevent your child becoming an alcoholic.
Just because you have an increased risk for addiction doesn’t mean that you are necesssarily destined to become an alcoholic. There are certain aspects of addiction, such as genetics, that are impossible to change. However, there are other aspects, such as environment, that can be controlled.
What Causes Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is also referred to as alcohol use disorder, alcohol dependency and alcohol addiction. Addiction is a complex, chronic mental illness. One that does not have a specific cause nor a set recipe for prevention.
Genetics account for about 50% of the risk factors for alcoholism. However, this does not mean that 50% of the people with a genetic predisposition will become alcoholics. Statistics only show a slight difference between expectation and reality.
In fact, if you are aware of this statistic, it can actually help. If you know that you have a family history of substance abuse, you will be more likely to monitor your drinking. Therefore, warning your child about this risk can influence them to make better choices. It may even help prevent your child from becoming an alcoholic.
Creating an Environment for Alcoholism
Environment accounts also accounts for alcoholism risk factors. And unlike genetics, it can be controlled. For example, children who grow up in a household with alcoholics are more likely to become alcoholics themselves. However, it is not simply the presence of alcohol itself that is responsible for this outcome. It is also the neglectful or abusive environment that alcoholics tend to create for the child. If you are an alcoholic, you should know that one of the biggest ways you can prevent your child from becoming an alcoholic is to get help for your own addiction.
You should also remember that environment is more than just the household. It includes school, friends, social media exposure and many other things. Part of parenting is teaching your son or daughter to not only survive but thrive in this environment. You should teach them about addiction in the hope that your children will learn to make their own appropriate decisions.
Being a Role Model: Abstinence vs. Responsible Drinking
It was mentioned before that children who grow up around alcoholics are more likely to drink themselves. However, in a similar situation, some children grow up and never drink. There is a constant debate whether exposing your children to alcohol at a young age is a good thing or not. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for this, and both parenting styles can work successfully.
Some people believe that letting their children sample alcohol at home is a safe way to expose them to it. Not necessarily. Some studies suggest that children who are allowed to drink at home are more likely to drink heavily elsewhere. Other studies have looked at parents that allow their children moderate amounts of alcohol at specific events such as holidays that creates a model of responsible drinking.
Tips to Help Prevent Your Child from Becoming an Alcoholic
Instead of focusing on preventing alcoholism, it is better to emphasise the consequences of drinking and/or teaching your child to be aware of alcohol from a young age. Addiction and alcoholism are not diseases for which there is a vaccine. The best you can do is lessen the risk factors involved.
A person that engages in a culture of underage drinking is more likely to have a drinking problem in adulthood. Therefore, one way of preventing alcoholism is to restrict your child’s exposure to alcohol while they’re growing up. Here are some suggestions on how to prevent underage drinking and substance abuse:
Set Rules but Don’t Focus on Scare Tactics
Scare tactics and punishments don’t necessarily work for two reasons. One, your child may not want to listen to you, or they’ll find it taboo and therefore exciting. Instead of scaring them with all the dangers of drinking, you should explain the potential consequences of underage drinking.
For example, they may wish to go to university. You should warn them that drinking before you are an adult can create memory and learning problems. Abusing alcohol can contrbute to lower grades, and ruin their chance of getting into a good school. Again, you should not use this as a way to frighten them, but as a learning experience.
Secondly, if you do use scare tactics, your children may not see you as someone they can trust. When they do run into problems, they may not to come forward to tell you. If your son or daughter is afraid of getting in trouble, they will hesitate to call you in certain situations even if they are in a dangerous situation.
Having said that, it is a good idea to establish a set of rules and appropriate discipline procedure. For this, it is best to adopt an authoritative parenting style, which implements a healthy balance of discipline and support. Believe it or not, even teenagers are likely to follow parental guidelines about 80% of the time.
Be a Good Role Model
You can choose to model a sober lifestyle for you children if you live an alcohol-free life. And of course, if you have a history of alcoholism yourself, then it is best not to drink. In doing so, you can show them that it is possible to be happy and satisfied without alcohol in your life. However, realise that setting this example will not mean that they will follow it. Regardless of how you handle it, for most children, responsible use of alcohol by parents will be their most powerful influence.
If you regularly consume alcohol, it is best to choose to educate your kids about responsible drinking. Hiding your drinking habits while lecturing your children about abstinence will not yield good results. Ultimately, your son or daughter will feel like they are being lied to. This might cause them to think that lying is acceptable or develop trust issues. If you really want to help prevent your child from becoming an alcoholic, you will need to be a good role model even when it’s embarrassing or uncomfortable.
Teach Them to Fight Off Peer Pressure
Peer pressure and exposure to drugs and alcohol from social media are a major influencing factor in whether a person chooses to engage in substance use. By building their self-esteem and teaching them to fend off peer pressure, you can help your child to be less influenced by external forces.
It is quite possible that your child will have a friend that participates in unhealthy habits. In that case, you may think it is a good idea to tell your child who they can and can’t be friends with. However, if you try to stop them from being friends, it will likely not work. It will just mean that they continue to hang out, outside of your supervision. Instead, continue to provide good parenting and trust that your child will make the right choices.
Grow Your Children’s Self-Esteem
The better that the self-esteem of your child is, the more likely you will be able to prevent them from becoming an alcoholic. Self-esteem has been shown to be an important factor in a child’s development. Here are some simple things you can do to prosper their self-esteem:
- Listen to and respect them
- Show love, support, and compassion, even when you’re unhappy with their behaviour. Remember, you were once a kid that did stupid things too!
- Allow them to make mistakes so they can learn from them
- Praise them when they make a strong effort or work hard, even if their final product is not successful or perfect
Remember that children with low self esteem or social anxiety tend to mix with others with similar problems because it makes them feel better about themselves. This can lead to unhealthy group activities such as underage drinking or smoking.
Be Present and Involved
Poor environment and neglect create a setting for future substance abuse. This is why it is important to be involved in your son or daughter’s life. For example, know who their friends are or what they do after school. Focus on creating a relationship where your children will open up to you instead of you prying into their lives.
In addition to setting rules, it is good to establish a routine and maintain a stable life at home. Children of parents who drink in excess but live in a stable household are not as likely to develop alcohol problem. This means that the family has regular meals, spends quality time involving the kids, and does not neglect important dates like holidays.
Educate Your Children
Alcohol are drugs are a topic that will eventually have to be discussed as your child grows older. Although they may be taught about substance abuse in school, it helps to hear it from someone they trust.
What if my son or daughter is already drinking?
Just because someone drinks or engages in substance use does not make them an alcoholic or addicted. Not to mention, everyone can make a mistake. While discipline and consequences are important, do not make your son or daughter regret coming to you in the first place.
If they do develop an addiction, understand that it is not your fault. Neither alcoholism nor addiction is your son’s or daughter’s fault either.
Any type of addiction is best addressed at the beginning. If you suspect that your child is becoming an alcoholic, it is best to get treatment for them right away. A residential rehab provides the perfect setting and is more intensive, with professional therapists, medical supervision, and a stabilising daily routine.
Sometimes, kind words of advice to a struggling teenager from a respected family member or friend can make a huge difference. Patients in treatment at Castle Craig Hospital sometimes say, â€œI wish that somebody had taken the trouble to explain to me how dangerous alcohol can beâ€.
Where to Get Extra Help
If you’re looking to find more resources for your son or daughter, or are looking into treatment options for them, you can pay a visit to a local alcohol addiction clinic that specialises in treating young adults.
Some useful links are:
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 23, 2020