Religious Families and Addiction Written by Thomas Gagliano, MSW

In order to understand why religious families inadvertently and at times unintentionally create an environment where their children run to addictions rather than God as their coping mechanism, we must first begin by understanding the mindset of a child. When we look back on our childhood, we look back through adult lenses. Since then, we have grown by our maturity and life experiences, which may have distorted the truth of our childhood. Many of us carry messages that tell us we are bad children if we get mad at our parents or disagree with them. This message can have a profound impact on the way the person feels about himself or herself in adulthood. It is important to respect our parents but we can also have different opinions.

A child needs to feel their opinion is important to their parents or the child may feel he or she isn’t important. Validating and acknowledging a child’s feelings is essential if they are to have self-worth. If children are afraid to share their true feelings and doubts in fear of reprisal then who can they trust? All of these messages set up the destructive entitlement that leads to addiction. It’s no coincidence that most addictions begin before the age of 18.

It’s important to understand that all children are egocentric at an early age. When my son was five, I was carrying him down the stairs and I stumbled. I banged my arm against the wall, broke my glasses, and hurt my shoulder while making sure he wasn’t hurt. At the bottom of the stairs, he looked at me and said, “It’s not nice to push little boys down the stairs.” This is the way children think at this age. They believe they are the center of the universe. Even when a parent dies at an early age, the child feels anger toward the deceased parent because they felt abandoned. If a parent works long hours in order to save for life’s expenses, the child may not view it this way. They may believe if they were better children, then the parent would want to spend more time with them. Their brain hasn’t developed enough to view this differently. Regardless of religion, skin color, or socioeconomic status, all children believe the world revolves around them. If the child believes something is more important to the parent than he or she is, then the child will develop animosity and defiance towards whatever it is. This includes religion. Contrarily, if a child feels he or she comes first, then religion does not become the enemy. They will welcome and accept religion as they grow older.

Today, there is a need to increase structure in the family system when raising our children. Unfortunately, too much control will create a child that loses their sense of self. In many religious families, parents use control as a mechanism to mold their children into who they want them to be. They forget that children need to feel understood for their beliefs and fears, as well as loved unconditionally, in order to want to be religious rather than feel they need to be religious as the way to receive their parent’s love. Read More…

 Content Source: Families and Addiction