Drug & Alcohol Abuse

Don't put off talking to your children about alcohol and other drugs. As early as the 4th grade, kids worry about pressures to try drugs. School programs alone aren't enough. Parents must become involved, but most parents aren't sure how to tell their children about drugs. Open communication is one of the most effective tools you can use in helping your child avoid drug use. Talking freely and really listening shows children that they mean a great deal to you.

What to Say

  • Tell them that you love them and you want them to be healthy and happy.
  • Say you do not find alcohol and other illegal drug use acceptable. Many parents never state this simple principle.
  • Explain how this use hurts people, such as:
    • Physical harm like AIDS, slowed growth, impaired coordination, and accidents
    • Emotional harm such as the sense of not belonging, isolation, or paranoia
    • Educational harm such as difficulties remembering and paying attention
  • Discuss the legal issues. A conviction for a drug offense can lead to time in prison or cost someone a job, driver's license, or college loan.
  • Talk about positive, drug-free alternatives, and how you can explore them together. Some ideas include sports, reading, movies, bike rides, hikes, camping, cooking, games, and concerts. Involve your child's friends.

How to Say It

  • Speak calmly and openly, without exaggeration; the facts speak for themselves.
  • Speak face to face: exchange information and try to understand each other's point of view. Be an active listener and let your child talk about fears and concerns. Don't interrupt and don't preach.
  • Through teachable moments: in contrast to a formal lecture, use a variety of situations such as television news, TV dramas, books, and newspapers.
  • Establish an ongoing conversation rather than giving a one-time speech.
  • Remember that you set the example. Avoid contradictions between your words and your actions. And don't use illegal drugs, period!
  • Be creative. You and your child might act out various situations in which one person tries to pressure another to take a drug. Figure out 2 or 3 ways to handle each situation and talk about which works best.
  • Exchange ideas with other parents.

How You Can Tell if a Child Is Using Drugs

Identifying illegal drug use may help prevent further abuse. Possible signs include:

  • Change in moods: more irritable, secretive, withdrawn, overly sensitive, inappropriately angry, euphoric
  • Less responsible: late coming home, late for school or class, dishonest
  • Changing friends or changing lifestyles, new interests, unexplained cash
  • Physical deterioration: difficulty in concentration, loss of coordination, loss of weight, unhealthy appearance
  • Refuses to talk or be around family

More Reasons

Young people say they turn to alcohol and other drugs for 1 or more of these reasons:

  • To do what their friends are doing
  • To escape pain in their lives
  • To fit in
  • Boredom
  • For fun
  • Curiosity
  • To take risks

Take a Stand

  • Educate yourself about the facts surrounding alcohol and other drug use. You will lose credibility with your child if your information is not correct.
  • Establish clear family rules against drug use and enforce them consistently.
  • Develop your parenting skills through seminars, networking with other parents, reading, counseling, and support groups.
  • Work with other parents to set community standards; you don't raise a child alone.