Drug Prevention Tips for Every Age
Conversations are one of the most powerful tools parents can use to connect with — and protect — their kids.
Helpful to Note:
- Always keep conversations open and honest.
- Come from a place of love, even when you’re having tough conversations.
- Balance positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.
- Keep in mind that teachable moments come up all of the time — be mindful of natural places for the conversation to go in order to broach the topic of drugs and alcohol.
Tips for Conversations with Your Early Elementary School Child (5-8 year olds)
- Talk to your kids about the drug-related messages they receive through advertisements, the news media and entertainment sources. Ask your kids how they feel about the things they’ve heard — you’ll learn a great deal about what they’re thinking.
- Keep your discussions about substances focused on the present — long-term consequences are too distant to have any meaning. Talk about the differences between the medicinal uses and illegal uses of drugs, and how drugs can negatively impact the families and friends of people who use them.
- Set clear rules and explain the reasons for your rules. If you use tobacco or alcohol, be mindful of the message you are sending to your children.
- Work on problem solving: Help them find long-lasting solutions to homework trouble, a fight with a friend, or in dealing with a bully. Be sure to point out that quick fixes are not long-term solutions.
- Give your kids the power to escape from situations that make them feel bad. Make sure they know that they shouldn’t stay in a place that makes them feel uncomfortable or bad about themselves. Also let them know that they don’t need to stick with friends who don’t support them.
- Get to know your child’s friends — and their friends’ parents. Check in once in awhile to make sure they are giving their children the same kinds of messages you give your children.
Tips for Conversations with Your Preteen (9-12 year olds)
- Make sure your child knows your rules — and that you’ll enforce the consequences if rules are broken. Research shows that kids are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs if their parents have established a pattern of setting clear rules and consequences for breaking those rules.
- Kids who don’t know what to say when someone offers them drugs are more likely to give in to peer pressure. Let her know that she can always use you as an excuse and say: “No, my mom [or dad, aunt, etc.] will kill me if I smoke a cigarette.”
- Feelings of insecurity, doubt and pressure may creep in during puberty. Offset those feelings with a lot of positive comments about who he is as an individual — and not just when he brings home an A.
- Preteens aren’t concerned with future problems that might result from experimentation with tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, but they are concerned about their appearance — sometimes to the point of obsession. Tell them about the smelly hair and ashtray breath caused by cigarettes.
- Get to know your child’s friends — and their friends’ parents. Check in by phone or a visit once in awhile to make sure they are on the same page with prohibiting drug or alcohol use, particularly when their home is to be used for a party or sleepover.
- Help children separate reality from fantasy. Watch TV and movies with them and ask lots of questions to reinforce the distinction between the two. Remember to include advertising in your discussions, as those messages are especially powerful.