Part II: How is Empathy the Key to Breaking the Cycle of Addiction?
Addiction to drugs, alcohol, smoking, vaping or juuling negatively influences the life of the addict and their family. Getting addicted at a young age in school can completely destroy the life of a child. It leads to stunted emotional and social growth because whenever they face a challenge. Their addiction becomes their refuge. So, they never develop the skills to process their emotions in a healthy manner. That just takes them further down the rabbit hole. One of the most critical skills to break the cycle of addiction is empathy.
Addicts & Empathy
Addiction can completely change an individual. Addicts may resort to stealing or lying to get what they want. This dishonesty ruins relationships because of the loss of trust. Kids addicted to a substance will find it difficult to look farther than their need to get high. Drugs, alcohol, smoking and vaping take control of the life of the child, and they do not show any kind of empathy towards how people around them are feeling or what they are going through.
It may be their need to fit into a peer group, deal with a problem, or loss of control, addiction compromises their decision-making skills. One poor decision after another is what makes the situation worse. Building empathy in such a child can help them see a little better and re-instill the power to make good decisions. This can be for the sake of their own future or for the sake of those they love.
Nipping in the Bud
Parents and teachers have to help their students learn this skill. Developing empathy early on helps students stay away from self-destructive behavior. A habit like vaping or juuling that is trendy may not appear harmless at first. But, a Juul cartridge comes with around 200 puffs, which is equivalent to the nicotine found in an entire pack of cigarettes. With this skill, they will learn to love themselves and work towards a future rather than falling into the trap of trends.
Empathy helps them to understand how substance abuse will affect their life and the life of others around them. Whether they come across pressure or stressful situations in their lifetime, empathy will help them see the bigger picture and make better decisions.
Developing this skill will help them from falling into a cycle of addiction in the first place.
Research Supports the Claim
American Journal of Addictions published a study in 2009 that empathy-quotient was higher in members of the control group who were not dependent on alcohol. However, the empathy-quotient went down for participants who were dependent on alcohol. Empathy for self and others is a contributing factor to addiction. There is plenty of more research that draws correlations between empathy and healthy child development.
Parents and teachers have to proactively work to develop empathy in kids from a young age. Parents can do it by practicing themselves. Kids will learn this skill by watching them. Schools and teachers can help their students learn empathy through targeted programs like SEL Adventures.
The Addiction Prevention Program from SEL Adventures understands the importance of teaching empathy to young students. It teaches them about the concept of empathy, how they can apply it in their life, and the importance of assertive communication. Apart from this, there are many other lessons in the program, including self-awareness, resistance to peer pressure, future planning, responsible decision making, and learning emotion display.