The expression “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is well-known for a reason! Growing up, parents are often influential role models in a child’s life and greatly impact the people they become. However, this can be a negative thing at times because children often pick up on their parents’ bad habits, whether it be habits like smoking, mindless spending, emotional eating, or gossiping. It’s also common to be afraid of turning into your parents when you grow up. Fortunately, as you grow up and create an identity for yourself, there are ways to break free from these habits you grew up surrounded by and become a healthier and happier version of YOU.
Habits often become engrained in our daily lives and routines and you may automatically find yourself doing something without thinking about it or questioning why. Try to think about how you picked up on this habit, how you observed it growing up, and who taught it to you. The next time you find yourself engaging in the behavior, take a moment to notice it happening. In the beginning, it’s okay not to stop right away, but simply acknowledging the behavior while it’s happening is a good first step in eventually breaking the bad habit.
Identify your triggers
Think about the different situations you’ve been in when you’ve noticed this behavior. Is it after a long day at work? Because of an argument with your partner? After visiting your parents or other family members? Think about the emotions you feel before engaging in the habit. Stress, anger, jealousy, and sadness are common emotions that lead to engaging in destructive behaviors. One thing that can help is brainstorming and writing down any situations, emotions, or people who may trigger you to engage in the behavior and why this happens. If possible, avoid triggering situations, but if not, prepare yourself beforehand and make a plan of action on what you’ll do if you do get triggered and what you’ll do instead of engaging in this behavior.
Replace old habits with new ones
Planning to simply “not engage” in your unhealthy, learned habits may work for a bit, but it rarely leads to long-term success. Instead, you’ll need to replace your old destructive habits with new healthier ones. If you’re used to reaching for a pint of ice cream after a long stressful day, try to turn to another habit instead. Some ideas are journaling, taking a nice warm bath, calling a friend, or sitting down to an episode of a TV show or a movie you enjoy. While it may feel uncomfortable at first, over time it will become easier and easier until you form a new healthier habit.
Sometimes you have to prioritize yourself and your self-care, and set boundaries with others. If your parents still engage in the destructive behaviors you picked up from them growing up, it may be necessary for you to set boundaries and ask them not to engage in the habits around you or for you to start spending less time with them when they engage in these behaviors. Additionally, if others around you engage in or encourage bad habits, you may want to reconsider your boundaries in these relationships as well.
Modify your lifestyle
Modifying other areas in your life can make it easier to break bad habits. Spending more time outside and giving yourself more time to relax can help ease stress. Nicotine lozenges, gum, or patches can help you quit smoking. Having balanced meals and snacks and eating regularly throughout the day can help you feel more satiated and make you less likely to emotional eat or overeat. Creating a budget can help with overspending. Surrounding yourself with people who support you and your goals and who don’t engage in the habit you are trying to break can also be helpful.
Look for outside support
Breaking a bad habit isn’t easy but the good news is you don’t have to do it alone. There are support groups and programs for sobriety, healthy relationships, quitting smoking, and emotional eating, just to name a few. It is also beneficial to have the support of a few friends and/or family members. Many online communities also exist for quitting bad habits and you may find the support of other members to be helpful for your journey.
by Samantha Srichai, Content Contributor
Parenting Desk. 6 habits parents need to give up for their child. (2019). The Indian Express.
Raypole, C. How to break a habit (and make it stick). (2019). Healthline.
Self awareness tips to break bad habits. (n.d.). Make or Break Habits.