How Can We Talk to Our Children About Addiction?

Addiction and other heavy subjects can be hard to address with children. Addiction has increasingly become a problem in younger children and adolescents. The same factors that cause adults to develop addictions are present in young people as well. How can we talk to our kids about addiction?

A misconception we tend to have is that talking to children about these intense things will cause them to want to experiment. We’re afraid that if we broach the subject of drugs and risky behaviors with them, they’ll be more likely to try them. The truth is that children are experimenting at very young ages, and it’s safer for them to get their information from trusted adults so that they can make healthier, better decisions for themselves. It’s also so important that they feel they have a safe space where they can ask questions and discuss what they are seeing and experiencing in their friend groups, at school, and in the media.

Talking about addiction is a way of teaching children about the wide range of emotions that we feel, and all the ways in which we handle them. When we see addiction not as a taboo subject but as a common part of people’s lives, an element of human nature to be addressed rather than avoided, that can make it easier to teach children about it. We can teach them about healthy coping mechanisms for handling our emotions, such as meditation and creative expression, as well as all of the unhealthy ways we try to cope with our pain. We can start teaching them about the very human tendency to become self-hating and self-destructive, especially after trauma or loss. We can talk about healthy decision-making, self-respect and self-protection.

We can teach them about the concepts of emotional avoidance and escapism. We can teach them the importance of learning about our emotions, that it’s ok to feel them, that they hurt sometimes but that when we accept them, we can learn to live with them. We can teach them that within our emotions lies all kinds of powerful guidance and lessons waiting to be learned. We can teach them that when we try to fight our emotions, they have a way of taking over us and making our lives unmanageable. We can teach them the importance of self-love and of making our wellbeing a priority.

Children understand a lot more than we often give them credit for. When it comes to addiction, it is so important to teach them these important lessons when they’re still young, before they’ve been brainwashed to believe that drugs are cool and self-destruction is in style.

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