When they see famous young people abusing alcohol and drugs, parents start to wonder; What causes celebrity addictive behavior? How does a good little boy or girl turn into a bad substance abuser?
Alcohol, drugs, sex, over/under eating, or compulsive shopping are typical vehicles used by insecure and confused teens to help them avoid discomfort, frustration, fear and pain. Since these emotions begin forming in the cradle, the time to start thinking about drug prevention is long before the child enters Junior High.
When kids grow up knowing they can find answers, comfort and strength by looking inward, they will be less likely to become dependent on external sources such as mind-altering substances, destructive behavior and unhealthy relationships.
Children learn to trust themselves by the way they are parented. For example, if you as a parent are judgmental and critical, your children may grow up to be the same way. They may judge themselves, others, and even you, harshly. The children may become vigilant and rigid, needing to reach for something to "take the edge off". They may lose their sense of self and start looking for validation from someone else--someone you're going to hate!
If you don't take steps to instill your 5-year-old with self-respect, don't be surprised when, in ten years, he gets busted for sniffing glue. He may become one of the millions of drug-addicted American teenagers. You'll be wondering what went wrong, just as the parents of celebrities are wondering at the addictive behavior of their children?
1 Check on Your Inner Kid
Sometimes a child can bring out the child within us, and if our inner kid is angry or wounded from the past, a parent/child war of the wills power-struggle can occur. When pushed, most of us push back. Some kids rebel as a way of holding onto their own identity (which is a fundamental right of human beings). Often, the more dictatorial the parent, the greater the child's need to rebel. Some do this by "just saying yes" to drugs or alcohol. The "Because I said so!" parenting style works the short run, but it can limit mom's or dad's influence in the future.
Mature and playful parents who guide, discipline and educate without needing to control, foster a mighty family connection that rigid domination would never yield. Kids need to feel connected. The feeling of belonging is something addicts yearn for. This longing often drives them to join groups or gangs in which alcohol and drug use is common.
2 Address the Behavior
Name calling like, "bad boy" or "bad girl" can backfire on a parent. While those words express the way you'd like (and not like) your kids to behave, the children may carry the "bad label" through life and they may start acting much, much worse! They figure, "No matter how hard I try, I can't be good enough." Painful thoughts may drive them to discover substances or behaviors that stop these thoughts. Your words hold power. Convey your opinion about a broken lamp or a "buy me!" tantrum without a character assassination.
3 Validate the Feelings
Let your children know that you honor their emotions no matter how wacky they first seem. As a parent, you're often stressed, getting to-do lists done, or you're tired and trying to relax when your child approaches on babble-mode. You impatiently think, "Get to the point and move along." After only half listening, you may give the child a dismissive quick-fix assessment. You may say something like, "That's silly, you shouldn't feel that way." And, often, they shouldn't!
However, when you tell kids that they are wrong or stupid for feeling the way they do, they may learn to doubt or hide their feelings. How can you express a feeling you're not supposed to have? Eventually, they may use drugs or alcohol to suppress what they're afraid to express. When you say things like, "What happened to scare (or hurt) you?" or, "I can see why you're upset and angry!" you tell that child that she is normal. We all want to feel normal, not weird. Normal people have many friends. Weird people have many cats.
4 Apply With-ness
Provide your children with a nonjudgmental and empathetic parent figure in whom they can trust. They'll continue to confide in you if they know you won't get angry, annoyed or critical. They'll feel safe sharing their feelings about drugs, peer pressure, sex and alcohol if they know you won't go nuclear. Witness their stories and respond in an interested manner, "Yuck, I hate when that happens! What did you do? You handled the situation well, what do you think? How do you feel now?" Most children long for adults to say, "Tell me more!"
Imagine your daughter comes to you with a painful or embarrassing story of something that happened in school. As a caring parent, you want to dole out advice to better equip her for the future, so you tell her what she did wrong. You're shocked as she lashes out in anger. Sure! How do you like it when you're relaying a painful story and instead of getting empathy, you get told that you didn't handle it correctly? Does the correction ever make you feel better? Kids (of all ages) want to be listened to, not judged. If we jump to correct children while they are still hurting, they may interpret our advice as, "You're telling me that I'm stupid?" Their frustration could lead to a more isolated existence. Feeling isolated is a hallmark of addiction.
5 Use Common Senses
When a child sees that you have really heard him, he will be open to listening to your advice. The less you listen to him, the less he'll hear you. By showing interest in your child's inner life, you send the message, "You're important." Feeling valued, he becomes more confident and is therefore less susceptible to peer pressure and destructive behavior.
6 Listen More, Speak Less
Who likes to be lectured to? Adults are (usually) smarter than children, and it's tempting to perpetually impart information which will save them grief. But we must pick our spots! Kids can feel overwhelmed when bombarded by pearls of wisdom. They begin blocking out and resisting valuable information. To have a greater impact, we must bridle our desire to rescue and fix. If we guide them judiciously, kids will respect us-and themselves-more. Self-respect prohibits addiction. When parents allow children to retain their dignity as entire (although short) human beings, they build high-self-esteemed self-sufficient and addiction-free citizens.
Hanala Stadner overcame her own addiction demons to become a best-selling author and celebrity self-help guru. Now 24 years sober, Hanala has gone from substance abuser to substance abuse counselor and expert in celebrity addictive behavior. She is an author, TV personality, and the child of Holocaust survivors. Her memoir, "My Parents Went Through the Holocaust and All I got was This Lousy T-shirt," is a blueprint for recovery and is available at amazon.com. Hanala's videos can be seen on The Jewish Life TV Network and on the web at Hanala Stadner at Podcast People.
Expert Media Commentary - Hanala offers her own take on celebrity addictive behavior - Lindsay, Paris, Lindsay, Brittany, Mel, David - and all the rest.