Alcoholism, Genetics and Parenting

Parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world, and teaching children about drugs and alcohol isn’t always easy. But it is important and can make a difference in the lives of your children.

How to Talk To Your Children About Drugs and Alcohol

The Center for Child Welfare asserts that admitting mistakes they’ve made is a powerful way for parents to role model for their children. In an age-appropriate way, you can tell your children about a time when drinking too much alcohol or even using too much of a tobacco product made you sick and resulted in poor decision-making. Likewise, it’s important to apologize for mistakes even when they’re not related to substance abuse. Everyone makes mistakes; by being honest, apologizing and acting to correct your course you show your children how to do the same.talking-to-children-about-drugs-and-alcohol

The University of Rochester Medical Center suggests that you can begin very basic, age-appropriate conversations about drugs and alcohol with children as young as five years old. At this point, a conversation may consist of saying “The people in that commercial are acting silly when they drink beer, but they have to be careful because drinking too much can be very dangerous. Children shouldn’t drink alcohol because it’s not safe.” Discussion prompts such as this one will pave the way for questions and answer sessions that can help you build a foundation of safety and prevention that can be built upon as your children grow older.

The links between alcoholism, genetics and family history are not easy to understand. What we know for sure, though, is that there is a connection.

Is Alcoholism Genetic?

This does not mean that if you had an alcoholic parent, or if both of your parents suffered from alcoholism, that you are destined to become one as well. It does mean that you may be more predisposed to drink and abuse alcohol than others. If you have a family history of alcoholism, learn more about what it means for you and your life.

Understanding Risk

While alcoholism is influenced by genetic factors, these elements allow for, at most, an increased risk of developing alcoholism, and are by no means deterministic regarding the future of any particular individual. In addition to the contribution of genetics, family members, close friends, teachers, employers, the media, and other societal influences all contribute to shape a person’s relationship with alcohol and other drugs of abuse. Furthermore, severe alcoholics can and do achieve sobriety and lasting recovery through alcohol addiction treatment, showing that each anyone can make the decision to change, regardless of any risk factors, genetic or otherwise.

Among those abusing alcohol, people who are genetically predisposed to alcoholism have a higher risk of becoming addicted. Although people can inherit alcoholic tendencies, the development of an alcohol use disorder is also dependent on social factors. Some who have inherited genes making them susceptible to alcoholism are responsible drinkers or never take a drink in their life.

Our hereditary behaviors interact with our environment to form the basis of our decisions. Some people are more sensitive to stress, making it harder to cope with an unhealthy relationship or a fast-paced job. Some people experience a traumatizing event and turn to alcohol to self-medicate.

However, even those with a high genetic risk to substance abuse must first be driven by a nonhereditary factor to do it. The catalyst that leads to alcohol abuse is usually an environmental factor, such as work-related stress.

Some environmental factors that are particularly risky for those who are genetically inclined include:

  • Drug accessibility
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Peer pressure
  • Witnessing violence

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