Talking to Your Child About Drugs

Print this page Bookmark and Share
Parents

Just as you inoculate your kids against illnesses like measles, you can help "immunize" them against drug use by giving them the facts before they're in a risky situation.

When kids don't feel comfortable talking to parents, they're likely to seek answers elsewhere, even if their sources are unreliable. Kids who aren't properly informed are at greater risk of engaging in unsafe behaviors and experimenting with drugs. Parents who are educated about the effects of drug use and learn the facts can help correct any misconceptions children may have.

Make talking about drugs a part of your general health and safety conversations with your child. Parents are role models for their children so your views on alcohol, tobacco, and drugs can strongly influence the views of your child.

Preschool to Age 7

Before you get nervous about talking to young kids, take heart. You've probably already laid the groundwork for a discussion. For instance, whenever you give a fever medication or an antibiotic to your child, you have the opportunity to discuss the benefits and the appropriate and responsible use of those drugs. This is also a time when your child is likely to be very attentive to your behavior and guidance.

Start taking advantage of "teachable moments" now. If you see a character on a billboard or on TV with a cigarette, talk about smoking, nicotine addiction, and what smoking does to a person's body. This can lead into a discussion about other drugs and how they can potentially cause harm.

Keep the tone of these discussions calm and use terms that your child can understand. Be specific about the effects of the drugs: how they make a person feel, the risk of overdose, and the other long-term damage they can cause. To give your kids these facts, you might have to do a little research.

Ages 8 to 12

As your kids grow older, you can begin conversations with them by asking them what they think about drugs. By asking the questions in a nonjudgmental, open-ended way, you're more likely to get an honest response.

Kids this age usually are still willing to talk openly to their parents about touchy subjects. Establishing a dialogue now helps keep the door open as kids get older and are less inclined to share their thoughts and feelings.

Even if your question doesn't immediately result in a discussion, you'll get your kids thinking about the issue. If you show your kids that you're willing to discuss the topic and hear what they have to say, they might be more willing to come to you for help in the future.

News, such as steroid use in professional sports, can be springboards for casual conversations about current events. Use these discussions to give your kids information about the risks of drugs.

Ages 13 to 17

Kids this age are likely to know other kids who use alcohol or drugs, and to have friends who drive. Many are still willing to express their thoughts or concerns with parents about it.

Use these conversations not only to understand your child's thoughts and feelings, but also to talk about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Talk about the legal issues — jail time and fines — and the possibility that they or someone else might be killed or seriously injured.

Consider establishing a written or verbal contract on the rules about going out or using the car. You can promise to pick your kids up at any time (even 2:00 AM!) no questions asked if they call you when the person responsible for driving has been drinking or using drugs.

The contract also can detail other situations: For example, if you find out that someone drank or used drugs in your car while your son or daughter was behind the wheel, you may want to suspend driving privileges for 6 months. By discussing all of this with your kids from the start, you eliminate surprises and make your expectations clear.

Laying Good Groundwork

No parent, child, or family is immune to the effects of drugs. Some of the best kids can end up in trouble, even when they have made an effort to avoid it and even when they have been given the proper guidance from their parents.

However, certain groups of kids may be more likely to use drugs than others. Kids who have friends who use drugs are likely to try drugs themselves. Those feeling socially isolated for whatever reason may turn to drugs.

So it's important to know your child's friends — and their parents. Be involved in your children's lives. If your child's school runs an anti-drug program, get involved. You might learn something! Pay attention to how your kids are feeling and let them know that you're available and willing to listen in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize when your kids are going through difficult times so that you can provide the support they need or seek additional care if it's needed.

Role-playing can help your child develop strategies to turn down drugs if they are offered. Act out possible scenarios they may encounter. Helping them construct phrases and responses to say no prepares them to know how to respond before they are even in that situation.

A warm, open family environment — where kids are encouraged to talk about their feelings, where their achievements are praised, and where their self-esteem is bolstered — encourages kids to come forward with their questions and concerns. When censored in their own homes, kids go elsewhere to find support and answers to their most important questions.

Make talking and having conversations with your children a regular part of your day. Finding time to do things you enjoy together as a family helps everyone stay connected and maintain open communication.

If you are looking for more resources for yourself or your child, be sure to also talk to your doctor.

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: October 2011
Originally reviewed by: Michele Van Vranken, MD



Related Resources

OrganizationPartnership for a Drugfree America This site features information about drugs and their effects and treatments. The site also shows paraphernalia associated with different drugs and includes personal stories.
Web SitePrevention Online, PREVLINE The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information runs this website and offers substance abuse information and resources.
OrganizationNational Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) NIDA offers a science-based drug abuse education program for students, news, information, and resources.
OrganizationNational Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD) This organization provides education, information, and help in the fight against alcohol and other drug addictions. Call: (800) NCA-CALL
OrganizationAmerican Council for Drug Education The ACDE is a prevention and education agency against substance abuse. This website includes a helpful list of symptoms associated with specific drugs.
OrganizationNational Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information This organization provides resources and referrals related to drug and alcohol abuse. Call: (800) 729-6686
Web SiteNational Inhalant Prevention Coalition This website informs parents about inhalant use and what they can do if they suspect their teens are abusing inhalants.
Web SiteParents: The Anti-Drug The Anti-Drug.com was created by the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign to equip parents and other adult caregivers with the tools they need to raise drug-free kids.


Related Articles

Drugs: What Parents Need to Know Knowing what drugs are out there, what they can do, and how they can affect someone is the first step in raising drug-free kids.
Kids and Smoking The health risks of tobacco are well known, yet every year many young people take up smoking. Here's how to help your kids avoid tobacco use - or quit, if they've already started.
Kids and Alcohol As much as parents may not like to think about it, the truth is that many kids and teens try alcohol before it is legal for them to drink it. Here's what you need to know.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2012 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.



 

Upcoming Events

The 1st Annual Logan X. Hess Stop Child Abuse Poker Run and Car Show will take place August 3. The ride begins at the Piqua American Legion and ends at Edison Community College. The car show will be at Edison Community College.

Car Seat Safety Check at Russell's Point Municipal Building

Play golf at the world-class NCR Country Club golf course to benefit Dayton Children’s Pediatric Cancer Care Center. Enjoy the Hoopla festivities featuring dinner and an outstanding silent auction and a guest presentations from our brave Dayton Children's ambassador fighting cancer.

Car Seat Safety Check

View full event calendarView full event calendar

Health and Safety

Your child's health and safety is our top priority

Accreditations

The Children's Medical Center of Dayton Dayton Children's
The Right Care for the Right Reasons

One Children's Plaza - Dayton, Ohio - 45404-1815
937-641-3000
www.childrensdayton.org