The best way to overcome an addiction is to never fall prey to one in the first place. Of course that’s much easier said than done and there are plenty of extraneous factors that can lead people down the path of dependencies. But if there are preventative measures that parents can take to at least lessen the risk, than why not do so? That’s the intent behind an informative new New York Times article, which highlights helpful tips that families can take into account.
Published by Times staff writer Jessica Lahey, who herself is a recovering alcoholic, the article offers a heartfelt, genuine perspective, as well as practices that Lahey is currently incorporating with her own children.
A central theme that she emphasizes throughout the piece is self-efficacy. This is defined as “one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed and coping with challenges in a positive way.” According to Lahey, traits like resilience, grit, fortitude and perseverance all stem from this one foundation. A lack of instilling this in children, she contends, is what can lead to feelings of doubt and hopelessness; all trigger factors that can lead young people to use.
Teaching children to have confidence and faith in themselves also works to steer them away from peer pressures, Lahey adds. She describes having a very open relationship with her two teenage sons; checking in with heartfelt conversations about drugs, alcohol and the influences they are experiencing around them.
Lahey also emphasized that self-efficacy begins with the parents, themselves. Demonstrating that model for your children (she gives the example of changing phrases like “I can’t” into “I can’t yet”) can give them their own sense of confidence and self worth.
Chores were also highlighted by Lahey as a way to build self-efficacy in young people. This can include challenging kids to do things around the house. Having them practice and succeed at various tasks can help build this perseverance foundation.
Praise is another component that Lahey drilled into, emphasizing that it has to be meaningful and specific. Saying something like “good job” can quickly become redundant, but tying it to a specific task really hammers the point home. She also advised to not go overboard with praise, though, and to only deliver it when it’s appropriate.
The final component she touched on was optimism. Continuing to demonstrate a positive attitude on the home front can instill lifelong values in children, which, as noted psychologist Martin Seligman told The Times, sets them on a path towards mental wellness.
“Children learn their pessimism, in part, from their parents and teachers,” Seligman concluded in the piece. “So it is very important that you model optimism for your children as a first step. These are all important factors that can help shape who they become.”