Can you protect kids from a family history of alcoholism?

Is family alcoholism part of your history?   Are you aware of the devastating effects of alcoholism on family, or friends? Many of us have an image of someone in our family, or circle, who has succumbed to the adverse effects of alcoholism.  Nearly everybody has been touched in some way by the negative effects of alcohol.  Many of us are worried about alcoholism in our family.

Are you worried about alcoholism continuing in the family?

When we are aware of the negative effects of alcoholism in society, it sure gives us cause to worry.  Many of us are concerned about how alcoholism may affect our family.  And with good reason.  Because alcoholism can have a devastating effect on people.  Not only does alcoholism affect the person who is addicted to alcohol, alcoholism also affects the lives of everyone around the alcoholic as well.  The negative effects of alcoholism reach much further than just the affected person.  Alcoholism can result in violence issues, financial issues, health issues, and family breakups.  No family alcoholism in your life?  Drunk drivers regularly kill innocent victims.  It touches us all, one way or another.

Is alcoholism hereditary?

This is probably the first question you’ll ask if you know a direct relative with alcoholism.  Is there is a genetic tendency for other family members to be at risk of alcoholism?  There is certainly a possibility that alcoholism is hereditary. Families can be at risk of ongoing issues with alcohol addiction and drinking problems.

However, what is also true is that in many societies, there is a social and cultural acceptance of drinking alcohol that is deeply entrenched.  When we fundamentally accept that alcohol is somehow acceptable, then it can be very difficult to change those cultural perceptions.  Either way, there is a high risk that our children will be commonly exposed to drinking alcohol at dangerous levels.

How can you protect kids from alcoholism?

1. Learn how to discuss alcoholism with kids

The most important way to help children to understand some of the bigger issues in life is to talk about it.  I understand that not all conversations are easy to have with kids.  But as adults, we have a responsibility to learn how to do just that.  Watch for opportunities to talk, when they arise.  Endeavour to keep channels of communication open.  Importantly, ensure your kids are able to join in grown up conversations from time to time.

We simply cannot avoid the important conversations – such as drugs and alcohol – forever.  Our children will hear about it soon enough, or encounter it for real.  So it is far better that we have discussed the subject of alcoholism open and honestly as a family.

Alcohol will probably be used as a ‘rite of passage’ from youth to adulthood.  Maybe we should not try to challenge this rite on behalf of our children.  Or, maybe we should!  It certainly depends on your perspective.  But if you are concerned about how to protect kids from addiction, or family alcoholism, then you should certainly prepare them for what to expect.

Family Alcoholism

2. Watch out for anxiety, depression, or any other mood disorders

This is yet another tricky thing for parents.  We’re not typically trained to know how to recognise the early symptoms of any kind of mental illness, or mood changes.  The average teenager will almost certainly undergo some massive mood changes, which are nothing more than natural growing pains.  The message here?  Parents should not try to be experts when it comes to mood changes or suspected mental illness.  Rather, it’s wise to seek help whenever necessary.

Professional advice is the best way to deal with any potential issues with anxiety and depression.  The earlier that treatment is obtained, then the sooner those serious issues can be diagnosed.  Treatment is by far the most preferred option for dealing with mental health issues.  The worst outcome may be that serious issues are not medically diagnosed.  And the sufferer may end up turning to alcohol as a method of self-medication.  Sound familiar?  I wonder how many cases of alcoholism in the family might actually have been due to un-diagnosed problems?  Mental health issues can often be be turned around with natural remedies, skilled emotional coaching, or medication, rather than alcohol.

3. Is it okay to drink alcohol in front of kids?

Now we get to the heart of the matter of family alcoholism.  If we adults drink alcohol in front of kids, then we have to be aware of the impact on our children.  The problem with alcohol is the broad social acceptance.  There is a cultural conditioning around alchol that we unquestioningly accept as normal.  There is no longer any doubt that alcohol is an addictive drug.  Yet in our society, we come to accept that it is okay to drink alcohol to excess.  And often we drink alcohol in excess in front of kids.

This means that not only do kids think that it is okay to drink alcohol, but they come to expect that they will do it also.  From the earliest age, kids observe their parents drinking alcohol.  Kids are very intuitive, and they notice the change in adult behaviour after we drink alcohol.  They must think it is some sort of magical potion to change parents from serious to frivolous in one glass.  Of course they can’t wait till it is their turn to have some magic potion also.

4. What if your child has a problem with alcoholism or addiction?

Do you have concerns about your children and the potential for a problem with alcoholism or addiction?   No matter how much we care for our children, or how good a parent you have been, there is always a risk that our kids can develop an alcohol or addiction problem.  There is no good trying to ignore the problem, or to ban them from seeing friends who may be a bad influence.   The problem is that alcohol is addictive, and it can strike young people at any time.

If you are concerned that your child may have a problem with alcohol or addiction, then you need to be aware that you cannot solve it for them.  As a parent, you will not be able to treat the problem with rules and boundaries.  The problem with alcoholism is that it cannot be shut down by physical boundaries.  The problem with alcohol is that it is an addictive drug because of how it affects the brain.  Alcohol is mind altering substance that causes chemical changes in the brain.

5. Knowledge about alcohol is the key

If you would like to protect your kids from alcoholism, then the most important thing is to have knowledge about the effects of alcoholism in the family.  We need to understand the effects of alcohol on the brain, and how alcohol changes the chemical balance.  You might be surprised to learn how alcohol has affected your own body, even if you don’t think you have a problem with alcoholism.

By far the biggest misconception to overcome is that provided by our social and cultural conditioning about alcohol.  Somehow we have come to accept that alcohol is a natural and harmless substance.  In fact, alcohol is known to be a grade 1 carcinogen.  Alcohol is strongly addictive, and alcohol alters the chemical balance in the brain to persuade you to drink more alcohol.  Just because not everybody appears to develop signs of alcoholism, there is still a very high risk of developing alcohol related issues later in life.

Protect kids from family alcoholism

Certainly no one wants to see their kids affected by family alcoholism patterns.  The best way to protect kids from alcoholism is to understand the effects of drinking alcohol.  But it is also important to have open and honest conversations about the effects of family history of alcoholism.  And furthermore, it’s helpful to consider the effects of making drinking regularly, and in quantity, socially acceptable.

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