How to Prevent Kids From Developing Addictions With Bestselling Author Jessica Lahey

Bestselling Author Jessica Lahey

Verywell / Julie Bang

Every Monday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, interviews experts, authors, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, and other inspirational people about the strategies that help them think, feel, and do their best in life.

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Meet Jessica Lahey

Jessica Lahey has spent more than 20 years as a teacher, including five years teaching in a drug and alcohol rehab center for adolescents. She is also a New York Times bestselling author.

Her books include "The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed" and "The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence."

She writes about education, parenting, and child welfare for The Washington Post, New York Times, and The Atlantic.

She is the co-host of the #AmWriting podcast alongside bestselling authors K.J. Dell’Antonia and Sarina Bowen.

Why Jessica Lahey Is Mentally Strong

Jessica describes herself as an alcoholic. And she decided she wanted to break the generational cycle of addiction in her family.

Her quest to learn how to prevent her sons from developing an addiction, despite their genetics, led her to write "The Addiction Inoculation."

She wants to use her story and the information she uncovered to teach others how to reduce the risk that kids will develop substance abuse problems.

What You’ll Hear on the Show

  • Why many attempts to prevent substance abuse actually backfire
  • Why Jessica wants her children to know she is an alcoholic
  • The strategies Jessica uses to teach her kids about drugs and alcohol
  • How to talk to kids about drugs and alcohol in a way that they’ll really listen
  • How to hold regular check-ins with your kids 
  • Why it’s so important to monitor your child’s mental health
  • The risk factors that increase the likelihood that someone will develop a substance abuse issue
  • The protective factors that reduce the risk
  • Why you can’t depend on schools to teach substance abuse prevention
  • How a family pet may prevent your child from developing an addiction
  • Why eating family dinners together is so important
  • Why the DARE program didn’t work
  • The questions that can help you learn more about your child’s interest in substances
  • How to empower kids to decline invitations to engage in risky behavior

What You’ll Learn About Substance Use and Mental Strength

There are a lot of misconceptions about substance abuse and mental strength. Some people assume that developing a substance abuse problem is a sign of weakness.

That’s not true, however. There are many factors that can lead to a substance abuse problem.

There is a link between mental illness and addiction. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems may increase someone’s risk for addiction.

Improving mental health and building mental strength may reduce the risk. And adults can take steps to teach kids skills that will reduce the likelihood that they’ll develop a substance use problem.

Quotes From Jessica

Jessica Lahey

I don't think family dinner is just about family dinner. I really think it's about opportunities to sit down, look each other in the eye, and talk to each other.

— Jessica Lahey
  • "Social ostracism is a big risk factor for substance abuse."
  • "If you have a really heavy risk side, then your protection side is going to have to be heavier in order to outweigh that risk side."
  • "We know—especially during this pandemic—strengthening kids' social, emotional learning is really way more important than making sure that they can add two fractions."

More About the Podcast

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Reviews and ratings are a great way to encourage other people to listen and help them prioritize their mental health too.

Links and Resources

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.