How to prevent

How to talk with your children about alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs

Talking with your children about drugs may not be an easy task. But as a parent you need to understand that you have more influence than you may think, and talking about this topic could make the difference.

According with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), “kids who have conversations with their parents and learn a lot about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50% less likely to use alcohol and drugs than those who don’t have such conversations”. 1

That’s why we encourage you to start the conversations now. If you don’t talk with your children about drugs, they may think it’s ok to use them or they will get the information from other people, the media, the internet, or other sources that might not be reliable.

Here are some tips that could help you:

  • Start early: According with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), by preschool most children have seen adults smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, either in real life, on TV, Movies, or online. So, the sooner you start these conversations, the better.
  • Know and teach the facts: You don’t need to be an expert, but knowing the basic facts about how alcohol, tobacco and other drugs affect their bodies, will help you with the conversation and will help your children to make good choices.
  • Use everyday events: For example, start a conversation when the issue comes up on TV, at the movies, on the radio, the news, or if you see a group of kids smoking around the neighborhood. Also, if your children like sports or any other activity, teach them how tobacco, alcohol and drugs can affect their performance.
  • Listen before you talk. First, turn off your TV or Phone, and give your children all your attention. Then, “hold all your knowledge” and listen what they have to say and how much they know.
  • Use open questions: To learn what they are thinking, their opinions and feelings, try to avoid questions that have a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Also, encourage your children to ask you questions. If you don’t know the answer, be honest, and look it up together.
  • Be honest and open: If you have used drugs in the past, you need to be honest with your children, but don’t give a lot of details. Let them know the problems your drug abuse might have caused and say that you want them to avoid making the same mistakes you made.
  • Give clear rules: Make sure your children know right from the start that you think it’s important to stay safe and that’s why you trust them to not drink, smoke or use drugs. Be clear about what you will do if the rules are broken.
  • Be a role model: The best way to teach is by example. If you smoke, try to quit (See “Get help”). If you drink alcohol, don’t drink too much or too often. If you use drugs, find a treatment program (See “Get help”). Use prescription and over-the-counter medicines safely.
  • If you think that your child may have a drug or alcohol problem, get help immediately (See “Get help”)

1 National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). “Talking with children”. https://ncadd.org/for-parents-overview/talking-with-children