Sometimes children develop addictive, compulsive and dependent behaviors long before adulthood, long before the behaviors would be considered to be related to addiction. We associate addiction with adulthood but it can also develop in childhood. What are some signs that children might exhibit indicating they have a dependence problem?
One sign is a child asking for more medication, either prescription or over the counter, than the normal dosage. They might already be attempting to numb their emotional pain with medication. You might notice medications missing that can’t be accounted for.
Children with a dependence problem might experience intense mood swings. They might be more irritable, restless or reactive. They might lash out at family members. They might have more conflict than normal with friends. They might cut off relationships or have friends distance themselves from them.
When children withhold information about their whereabouts or who they’re spending time with, or get defensive or reactive when you ask, there’s a chance they might be experimenting with drugs outside of the home.
It’s never too early to start talking to children about drugs and the harmful, life-threatening effects of addiction. Kids are starting to try drugs earlier than ever, so it’s a great idea to start working with them on developing healthy coping mechanisms when they’re still young, even before the age when they might start experimenting. Teach them that emotions can be difficult but that processing them and feeling them is the only way to get through them. Trying to numb or distract ourselves from them only hurts us in the long run.
Take the time to talk to them about peer pressure. Tell them they will be confronted with people who want to pressure them to do things they know aren’t good for them. Teach them about the importance of defining their self-worth and self-esteem by what makes them genuinely happy, rather than by trying to appear cool, rebellious and self-destructive. Teach them that the opinions of others won’t matter to us if we aren’t happy with ourselves. Experimenting with drugs might seem like the cool thing to do, until you’re older and realize you wasted years of life, potential and possibility. Talk to children about these things when they’re still young so that they can develop a solid foundation of self-love, self-respect and self-protection.
Riverside Recovery offers resources to both individuals and families coping with addiction. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.