Talking to Kids About Drugs and Alcohol

With the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse among people of all ages, parents cannot afford to overlook the threat to their children. The strong probability that almost every child will at some point be in a position where they know someone who has used drugs or are confronted with a decision to use makes it all the more important to communicate openly with kids about these dangers. Explaining the risks of drug and alcohol use is important. It’s also crucial to develop a trusting relationship between parents and kids to ensure that children share any problems they experience.

Starting the Conversation

Starting a conversation about drugs may seem frightening. However, this chat doesn’t need to be a big deal. Optimally, parents will lay the groundwork for open conversation by beginning dialogue when children are very young. A brief and casual statement or two about drugs and medications when a child is 5 or 6 would be appropriate. As a child grows older, the parent can add to these conversations to make a child aware of risks and dangers.

Explaining the Negative Effects of Drugs and Alcohol

Drugs have far-reaching effects physically and emotionally. Teach children about the physical harm they could experience from drug use, such as memory problems and changes in the way the brain functions. Explore the bad things that can happen with alcohol abuse, such as car accidents. By raising awareness, you equip a child to avoid these risks.

Saying No to Peer Pressure

Peers become an important part of an adolescent’s life, so it’s important o help prepare children to resist negative peer pressure. By teaching about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, a child can summon the strength to say “no” when someone tries to tempt them into experimenting. Parents can also help a child understand the importance of choosing friends wisely to avoid people who may not be true friends.

Be Realistic

As careful as many parents are to teach about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, some experimentation may occur. To avoid potential problems, parents should institute a “no questions asked” policy that promises that kids can call if they need a ride in a dangerous situation. Always communicate that safety is the main concern, and you will always be there to help if needed without fears about punishment.

  • National Trends in Addiction (PDF): With the prevalence of drug use, parents need to prepare themselves for the strong likelihood that a teenager will at some time be confronted with the opportunity to use drugs.
  • Adolescence (PDF): With emerging independence, teenagers pull away from parents and naturally gravitate toward peers. Teaching kids about the dangers of drugs helps prepare them to make smart decisions.
  • Teenage Alcohol and Drug Abuse (PDF): Statistics show that more than 11,000 adolescents try alcohol for the first time every day.

Keeping Lines of Communication Open

The teenage years are supposed to be a gradual shift toward independence. As an adolescent gains more maturity, the need for communication does not lessen, however. Be open about behavioral expectations and consequences. Set a positive example for responsible behavior, and make sure teenagers know that you will always listen if they want to talk.

  • Communicating With Your Teen (PDF): With a foundation of trust, parents can maintain effective communication with an adolescent, which helps a teenager feel comfortable enough to talk openly.
  • Parenting a Teenager and Positive Discipline (PDF): Teenagers are supposed to be learning how to be responsible and independent to prepare for adulthood. Parents should take on a supervisory and supportive role to help teens mature successfully.
  • How to Talk With Your Kids About Drinking (PDF): Parents must both show and tell kids about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. Parental example is a foundational way that kids learn.
  • Talking With Kids About Drugs: A conversation about drugs should start with the premise that you love your kids and want them to be happy. Then, communicate that drug use is unacceptable.
  • How to Talk to a Friend or Family Member About Drugs: Focus on behaviors and concerns if you ever have to speak with your teenager about possible drug or alcohol use.

Additional Tips for Parents