Talking about drugs and alcohol with your kids

One of the most important ways to educate your children about drug and alcohol use is by having healthy and regular and honest conversations with them about the risks of substance use and abuse. Here are some handy tips to keep in mind when you start talking with your children about drugs and alcohol.

Be real, regular, and honest

Some children will approach parents with questions, but oftentimes kids learn about drugs and alcohol from their peers at school, at sporting events, and at parties. If your child asks you about something that they’ve seen or heard, try to engage with them openly and honestly. If you’ve already addressed drugs and alcohol use in previous conversations, your child will feel more comfortable bringing those topics up.

You can’t control the world

Spend time to teach your child the difference between appropriate and inappropriate drug and alcohol use. While you cannot control what your child will be exposed to when they’re out of your home, you can help them to have confidence in making decisions that will keep them safe.

Pay attention to your child’s peer group

As your child grows, so too will their social circle. Make an effort to engage in conversations about your child’s friends and with their parents/families, and watch your child carefully to make note of any changes s/he may have around certain peers.1

Set clear family rules about drug and alcohol use

Ensure that your child knows your family rules for substance use, and what consequences will result if those rules are broken. Children are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs if families have set clear rules and consequences for breaking them.

Build your child’s self-esteem

Make sure your child has access to healthy activities that they enjoy, and encourage them to set goals for themselves and work towards meeting them. Offer your child positive reinforcement for both successes and effort so that they feel good about themselves and their identity and are less likely to cave to unhealthy peer pressure. Take up an activity with your child—this will help with your bond, and not only make tough conversations easier and more natural, but provide quality time in which to have them.

Talk about drugs and alcohol in the media

Your child will be exposed to drugs and alcohol in television shows, movies, music, and advertisements. Talk about how drug and alcohol use on screen is shown to be exciting and fun, and how the bad effects aren’t shown. Let your child ask questions about what they see in the outside world, and help them to discover ‘real’ answers.

Use the facts

Learn about popular drugs and their effects (as well as the effects of alcohol), and use this information to speak honestly with your child about the risks involved in drug and alcohol use. Exaggeration or fear based reasoning can sometimes backfire when the child realizes it to be untrue, and not enough information may not provide a firm enough basis for your child to make confident decisions down the road.

Teach them how to say “no”

Peer pressure plays an important part in adolescent drug use. Role play with your child and let them practice saying no to drugs and alcohol. Help them brainstorm effective responses to offers of drugs and alcohol, like “My Dad would be really disappointed in me if I smoked a cigarette,” or “No way! Those are really bad for you!”2

 

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1.Helfand, Ezra. “Parentally Speaking: Talking about Drugs, Alcohol with Your Kids.” MY CENTRAL JERSEY, Courier News and Home News Tribune, 5 Mar. 2018, www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/local/how-we-live/families-children/2018/03/05/parentally-speaking-talking-drugs-alcohol-your-kids/385625002/.
2. Broadwell, Laura. “Talking to Your Child About Drugs.” Parents, Parents, 6 Dec. 2017, www.parents.com/kids/problems/drug-abuse/talking-to-your-child-about-drugs/.

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