Talking to your kids about addiction just might be the most important thing you discuss with them.
This post may contain affiliate links
When you think about all the things you will teach your children up until they leave the nest, you most likely contrive topics such as “the talk,” conflict resolution, sharing, personal hygiene, faith, respect, etc.
But do you consider teaching them about addiction? What about temptation?
We will all have temptations in our life, so why wouldn’t we teach our kids about it, and equip them to know what to do when it happens—how to have self-control.
As alcohol, drugs, social media, and so much more are infiltrating the lives of our young ones, it’s important to recognize that, while we can’t control most of what our kids will be exposed to, we can help them know what to do when they are.
My son loves sugar. I mean, what nine-year-old doesn’t? And I’ve seen what it does to him when he has too much. I also see what it does to him when he can’t have any.
Or screen time. Who among you doesn’t have a kid who wants to play video games or watch something constantly?
Anything can become an addiction
The thing is, kids aren’t aware that they’re addicted to something, but as parents, it’s our job to address topics like these while they are still moldable, and while the addiction is not so devastating.
That way, when they face something more significant—which they will—they can have the tools to know what to do in the face of temptation, and how to have self-control. At least that’s our objective here.
It’s not realistic to expect my son to NEVER have sugar. There are birthday parties, school events, etc. and if I were to try and control him to the point of never eating sugar again, I would go nuts, he would go nuts.
But if I teach him that even if something tastes good or feels good, it doesn’t mean we should let our bodies have free reign over that certain thing.
Instilling self-control at a young age will help them learn to navigate their cravings better, how and when to say no to something, and recognize why it’s important.
Here are 5 things to consider when it comes to teaching your kids about addiction
1. Let them experience the repercussions of addiction if necessary
There have been times that I’ve allowed my son to have a lot of sugar, so he feels what it does to your stomach. It helped him realize that unlimited amounts of sugar aren’t good OR fun.
Letting your child experience the repercussions of having unlimited amounts of what they want, within reason, is a great way to help them have a desire to make the right choice the next time.
This doesn’t work with everything. Like, if I allowed my son to unlimited video games, he would do it, and love it, and want more of it. So yeah, be smart about it.
2. Balance discipline with letting go of control
Teaching your kids how to have self-control starts with disciplining them. If they aren’t disciplined, they will think that life will always go their way and that consequences don’t exist.
**Check out this post on discipline to make sure you are disciplining in love, and not exacerbating your kids.
On the other hand, it’s important we don’t mistake discipline for trying to control our kids.
My husband grew up finding himself wanting to hide when he played video games because his parents never let him do it at home. Because he loved them so much, he would escape to his friend’s house, where he played age inappropriate games for unmonitored amounts of time.
This is an example of how his parents lost an ample opportunity to teach him balance and self-control with something he loved.
Instead of keeping them from everything they could potentially become addicted to, we can use them to teach self discipline.
In essence, teaching them self discipline will help them overcome temptations, which will also help them with addiction.
3. Teach them that anything you love and enjoy can become an addiction
Exercise, food, video games, T.V., All things that aren’t harmful, but can very quickly become harmful.
Some people might think that addictions only come with things like drugs, alcohol, tobacco, etc.
But common, everyday things can become an idol, leaving more important priorities to take the back burner.
4. Teach them how to manage priorities and have moderation – Yes, that means you should drink alcohol in front of your kids
One of the best ways to teach your child something is to model it—have moderation in your life with the things you love. Hint—your smart phone.
Make sure your priorities are in order and be an example for your child—they watch you with open eyes.
Take alcohol, for example. If you hide when you drink, they will see alcohol as something shameful that needs to be hidden.
BUT if you drink responsibly in front of them, they will hopefully learn from that.
Another helpful way to instill healthy priorities is to give them responsibilites, like chores.
Here is an awesome chore chart for older kids.
Have them earn their screen time, so they see it as a privilege, and not take for granted the things they love. Check out my latest FREE screen time checklist printable for kids to help them practice moderation and appreciation for the things they love.
5. Be real with them about addiction
At an appropriate age, show your kid pictures of someone who took meth for a few years. I mean, it seems a bit harsh, but it can be a helpful tool and reality check for them to understand the repercussions of addiction.
In Europe, it’s required that every cigarette box has a picture of someone with some type of mouth, throat, or lung cancer. It’s disgusting. When we lived in Germany, my son was around the age of 4, and believe you me; he noticed those pictures as we were waiting in the checkout line.
I honestly believe that he will never touch a cigarette, thanks to that. It terrified him, but in a good way.
Be real with them about what addiction does to your relationships, health, livelihood, etc.
Please don’t make them feel ashamed for seeing something they shouldn’t, or being tempted—they are human, and at the age of curiosity, this can be extremely crucial moments in teaching your kids about addiction and temptation, rather than shaming them.
Be real. An open and non-judgemental space for them to come to with their questions.
Teach your son to look away when something inappropriate is in front of him. Teach him how to respect women, and that what the world portrays as beauty isn’t realistic.
Prepare your kids for the world they WILL grow up in, not for the one you WANT them to grow up in—that includes talking about the tough stuff like addiction, temptation, and having self-control.
Positive parenting tools for every parent
Screen Time Protection and Teaching Moderation
I’ve recently partnered with Bark, a software to supervise, manage, and protect your child’s device use on the go. Use the code WORDBIRD at checkout to get an additional 1-month free trial after your first initial 7-day trial!
Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids – FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below.
Book List for Kids and Parents
Check out my recommended books for parenting.
Book list to teach kids about racial diversity.
Journaling for Kids
When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves in a free and comfortable way. Check out our Kid’s Printable Journals — created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark the imagination.
Chores for Kids
Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge
Implementing chores and structure in your child’s daily life is a VERY helpful tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their own progress, and keep you from having to constantly remind them of their daily tasks.
If you’re looking for something a bit more simple, this is also a good option.
Chore Chart Printable – Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer
If you’re looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly “missions.”
Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids
Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL, and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to feel free to share their questions and emotions, all without judgment.
We even offer an “Exemption Time” for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences.
Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!
Don’t forget to follow us on social media!