How do you respond to stress? Do you reach out to loved ones? Or numb out to checking your Facebook page?
It’s common for people to numb out when they are stressed or experience emotional pain. Many people numb out with TV, reading, video games, exercise, or other numbing or isolating behaviors. The classic numbing example, is a dad coming home from work and ignores everyone, while he watches TV to “unwind” – when really he’s just isolating, instead of connecting.
We all know that reading or exercise are wonderful, so don’t worry, I’m not trying to encourage you to stop reading or exercising, but when done in excess, to avoid emotional stress – they can become a way to escape, rather than a healthy recreational activity.
In a nutshell, addiction is the cyclical act of numbing to avoid emotional or physical pain – often both. Being emotionally healthy means that you can withstand the discomfort of emotional pain.
I have often come into contact with families who have a culture of isolation, rather than connection. For example, if you walked into their home, you might find everyone isolated interacting only with a mobile device, not with each other. You might see them watching TV during meal time rather than talking. You may find parents encouraging their children to “leave them alone”, instead of inviting their children to work or play along side them.
A family culture of isolation leaves children more prone to choose to numb when stressed, rather than reach out for connection.
The skill of truly connecting with other people when stressed, upset or in emotional pain is an important gift to give to your children. This gift, more than any other skill will help your child avoid addiction.
Part of connecting is being able to withstand an uncomfortable conversation, or the emotional pain others are going through. Compassion is the ability to feel other’s pain, and not try to avoid it. Being willing to feel pain, regardless of the discomfort is part of connection.
This Christmas season, please consider giving your kids the gift of connection by being willing to withstand some uncomfortable moments. When you’re upset or stressed, instead of turning to your phone to numb out on Instagram, consider turning to your child and telling them about your worries, fears and concerns. Let them know that you aren’t perfect. By connecting, you’ll give them the gift of emotional health – which will benefit them their whole lives.
For more about how to help your child avoid addiction, a free webinar is available at Addo Recovery.