I want to share about this important topic today and why it is close to my heart…
During the early years of my relationship with my partner (my boys’ Dad) he battled with drug addiction. I’m so proud of him, that he overcame this hurdle and became a healthy and conscious father for our two boys. For me though, knowing that addiction runs in families, I spent a lot of time in the early years of motherhood researching this and how I could help to protect my kids from developing addictions later in life.
And I want to share this so it can help not just my kids but all kids. And not just families that face drug addiction but all addiction. That is, the distraction epidemic that plagues our society…
Addiction effects ALL of us. And if you don’t think it effects you I encourage you to look harder.
Why? Because when we can rise above our STUFF (our stories, patterns, addictions, beliefs, reactions, triggers and coping mechanisms) and treat ourselves and our children with more compassion, connection and love rather than judgment, disconnection and punishment it paves the way for our children to grow up feeling more connected within, more connected to those around them and more connected to the natural world…
Our role as mothers is pivotal in turning around this ‘distraction epidemic’ for the sake of our planet and all of its inhabitants. Disconnection from our feeling self means choices are largely made based on greed and egocentricity. Whereas when we are connected with our feeling self, we make decisions and choices that are based on love, compassion and unity.
Whilst some addictions are more socially acceptable: chocolate, shopping, scrolling Facebook, playing video games or even alcohol, at the heart of it, all addiction stems from the same thing. A disconnection from our feeling self. When we suppress or disconnect from our feelings we look for something else to fill that void. And if this is regular and ongoing, it will lead to addiction.
Let’s look at some common examples,
Distracting your child from upset feelings with games/ cartoons on your phone now could mean that later in life they distract themselves from their feelings using things like video games, social media, tv etc
Distracting your child from upset feelings with a dummy, bottle, breastfeeding, food or drink now could mean that later in life they distract themselves with food, sugar, alcohol, smoking etc
Distracting your child from upset feelings with movement/ jiggling/ rocking now could mean that later in life they find it difficult to sit still and be present with their feelings and distract themselves with work, housework, exercise etc.
These are just 3 examples. As I mentioned, addiction can form with anything, so there are many other possibilities.
My point is, especially in early childhood, it’s SO, SO important to reduce those distractions as much as possible and practise being present instead.
When our son was a baby I began reading about Aware Parenting which is a parenting philosophy based on the work of Swiss American developmental psychologist Aletha Solter. The principles of her work fit perfectly with what I was understanding about addiction equating to a disconnection from the feeling self.
So, the emotionally protective factors that I’ve put in to place include: (the first four I learnt about through Aware Parenting)
1. Listening to feelings from a young age.
Empathising with tears/ tantrums/ upset feelings. Practising being present rather than distracting away/ disconnecting from feelings. This helps our children stay connected to their feeling self and have no need to ‘fill the void’ with other things, (This has been my spiritual practise as a mother and I don’t always get it right but I keep trying and every day its become easier because I’ve strengthened those neural pathways in my brain.)
2. Consciously developing a close, meaningful, trusting and loving bond.
Promptly responding to needs and taking the time to connect with and play each day. Children who lack a close relationship with at least one loving parent are at higher risk for addiction.
3. Guiding behaviour without punishments and rewards.
Punishments and rewards take away from your child’s internal compass (what is right) and intrinsic motivation. This doesn’t mean you let your child do whatever they like! You can still guide your child’s behaviour in a peaceful way WITHOUT the use of punishments and rewards. The more you practise and get comfortable with this skill while you’re calm, the more your brain is creating and strengthening new neural pathways. And the stronger those neural pathways become the more you’re going to be able to start drawing on this response in times of stress (ie when you normally lose your patience and start shouting/ threatening or giving punishments etc).
This is your child’s ability to act out of his or her own interests, their sense of independence and freedom. Having this sense of autonomy intact is going to help your child stay connected to their feeling self and their internal guiding compass as they spend more time with peers later in life. So, for example, if your child is playing a video game and is in the middle of a level and you ask them to switch off, it’s going to clash with their sense of autonomy and what they are wanting to achieve in that moment. So rather than forcing or punishing your child for not switching off immediately another way around this particular situation might be to first ask what your child is doing on the iPad. Let them know your needs. “We need to leave in ten minutes/ I need you to start getting ready so we can go to…/ your game time has nearly finished… how can you finish off?“ Most likely your child will be much more agreeable and cooperative. Perhaps they’ll let you know that they want to finish the level or have one more life etc
Unpack your own emotional baggage, your triggers and your addictions (ie how do you distract yourself / disconnect from your feelings?) This is an ongoing progress. No-one is ‘done’. Keep questioning and digging and unpacking so that these things don’t cloud your relationships and interactions with your children.
I want to stress that it’s NEVER EVER too late to start these things, even if your kids are already teenagers.
Do you have questions or would like to know more about this – I’d love to hear from you! You can get in touch through my Facebook page or via the form below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. And if you’d like my support to create more balance, ease and flow at home with your children, you can book right here.
PS As I mentioned at the beginning, these emotionally protective factors can be helpful for every family for every type of addiction. However, if you are concerned about drug addiction and have other physical and environmental factors at play such as family history, mental health issues, trauma etc it is best to seek additional support.