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In America alone, around 21 million people have at least one addiction, and drug overdose rates have more than tripled in 30 years. As parents, we want the best for our kids, and a major part of that in modern times is educating ourselves on how to decrease our child’s likelihood of becoming an addict.

The older I have gotten, the more I have realized how powerful addiction is. I know all too well how easily addiction can destroy someone’s life, as I am a recovering addict, have many family members who are recovering addicts, and have many friends who also have had addiction problems. Oftentimes, these issues culminate quite quickly, and they are quite destructive to everyone in their path.

According to an article featured in Scholastic, “scientists estimate that genetic factors account for 40 to 60 percent of a person’s vulnerability to addiction” meaning that if you have addiction in your family, your child is at a much higher risk of going down the same path.

Part of preventing this from happening is to educate your child. Dr. Steven M. Jenkusky, we need to be discussing addiction with our kids. Jenukusky spoke with Scary Mommy and explained, “Avoid lectures. Instead, listen to your child’s opinions and questions about drugs. Assure your child, he or she can be honest with you. Educate them. Discuss reasons not to use drugs. Avoid scare tactics. Emphasize how drug use can affect the things that are important to your children – such as sports, driving, health, and appearance.”

He also encourages parents to explain why they choose not to use drugs. Additionally, he discourages steering clear of the hard topics. Be blatantly honest with your kids.

And since many experts say that a major part of what leads people to drugs and addiction is a lack of connection – connect with your child. Encourage them to have friends, water their social seeds, develop a real bond with your children, and have deep and insightful discussions. If your child can connect to you, and others easily, they will likely never develop a need to get addicted in the first place.

Perhaps above all, model good behavior. Don’t binge-drink in front of your child and expect them to develop a healthy relationship with alcohol later on. Try to minimize the importance of substances altogether by placing the focus on important things like family, your child’s biggest dreams, and friendship.

Pay attention to your child and who they spend their time with and where, so if you notice signs that they could be heading in the wrong direction, you can help to steer them back on course. This is why developing a genuine bond with your child is so important, because if they don’t trust you when you try to steer them in the right direction, your efforts are likely to be unrewarded. The bond you have with your child and your behaviors and tendencies play a much bigger role in your child’s decisions than anything. Choose wisely.