The Connection Between Parenting and Addiction
Updated: Oct 3, 2018
For those that don't know me, yesterday was my 12 year anniversary of becoming clean and sober.
Straight away I hear you ask...
Why are you telling us this? This is a page related to birth and parenting. What on earth has this got to go with addiction? Bit personal isn't it?
The answer is twofold.
Firstly I want you to know me, to understand me, and why I am so passionate about children and parenting. But mainly because addiction is a mental health disease that has roots in our relationships with our parents and with our children.
I wouldn't be here today, doing what I do and talking about my family and parenting as a whole if I hadn't experienced what I did.
When I was first pregnant with my son Rufus, one of my first worries was about how I was going to shelter him from addiction. It's not called a family disease for nothing, and it is prevalent within mine. Pregnancy made me look deeper into addiction as well as parenting practices, and for me looking into attachment theory, the neuroscience of babies and toddlers, as well as practices like gentle or positive parenting were fascinating and a life saver in building my relationship with my son.
One of the earliest things I learnt in rehab was...
dis-ease = disconnection
So what is the opposite of disconnection? Connection!
I often ask clients what it is that they want for their children.
Trust, love, self-esteem, confidence, the ability to know right from wrong, strength of character. The list goes on.
But how do we go about building those attributes in our children? By connecting with them!
Now I have to say that I don’t blame my parents for my apparent lack of potential disconnection. Rather controversially, I blame society. The last 50-100 years parenting has changed so much due to the 'advice' that we are given by the ‘parenting experts’, the GP’s, Health Visitors as well as the advice that has then been passed down through families and friendships.
If you do ever decide to go deeper and question the practices that are being touted to help make you or your child’s life easier, you soon come to see that there is very little scientific evidence or research to back them up. In fact a lot of the time it’s quite the opposite.
Spaced feeding or controlled crying are prime examples of parenting practices that don’t take into account the biology, physiology and neuropsychology of a child. While they may help whatever problem it is that a parent is facing with their child, it doesn’t help their connection. If you ask a parent who has tried and tested these methods they may say they work, but it’s very likely you’ll also hear that it was hard and that it went against their instincts.
The brain doesn’t reach full development until it’s in its mid 20’s. The brain is so malleable, especially in those early baby/toddler years, but also in the teenage years too that by not responding to our children’s needs in the way that they need, it can potentially lead to some of the issues that they may experience later on in life. Even though it’s likely that it won’t lead to anything serious, how many of us can say that they truly have a complete sense of self esteem and don’t need a boost of confidence to do something from friends, family or Facebook likes? How many of us can say that they truly trust others, themselves and their own judgement?
So if disconnection in childhood can potentially lead to a host of issues, how do we avoid it? Partly we can’t. We can’t stop our children from experiencing negative events or consequences but we can however equip them to be able to deal with them in a healthy manner.
Showing our little one’s trust, allowing them the space to learn for themselves whilst being there to help them if they fall (physically and metaphorically), being responsive and meeting their needs (this is easier said than done, but we all have an innate connection that if we stop and listen, will see that our babies/toddlers are showing us the way) will all go a long way to helping.
If anyone wants to explore some of the topics in this blog I can highly recommend:
Why Love Matters by Sue Gerdhardt
The Whole-Brain Child by Dr Daniel J Siegel & Dr Tina Payne Bryson
Calm Parents Happy Kids by Dr Laura Markham
Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn