5 tips for talking to kids about drugs and alcohol

Many parents wait until their children are in high school to talk about drugs and alcohol and that can be a mistake. Of course it’s better late than never, but the key when it comes to discussing drugs and alcohol is to start early and stick with it.

Did you know that?

  • Children who begin drinking at age 13 have a 45% chance of becoming alcohol dependent.
  • The average age of first use of alcohol is 13.5 in Texas.
  • Half of all lifetime cases of mental and substance use disorders begin by age 14.
  • The average age of first marijuana use is 13.7 years old in Texas.

These few statistics show the need for prevention efforts at a young age. This aligns with the theme for this year’s Alcohol Awareness Month: “For the Health of it: Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction.” Alcohol Awareness Month is sponsored by the NCADD and is every April.

Our three coalitions work to make changes at the environmental level to create safer communities and decrease the chance for underage drinking and drug use, but we can’t do it alone. We can be the most successful when we work together to create safe environments –at home and in the community- for our young people to strive and be their best.

We need to empower parents to have age-appropriate conversations with their kids about drugs and alcohol at an early age. Children go through many different stages as they grow up, and what’s appropriate to tell an 18-year-old and a 9-year-old about alcohol and drugs can vary quite a bit, but here are 5 tips for talking to kids about drugs and alcohol:

  1. Explain the risks

Most kids don’t understand the damage they could do to their brains and future by drinking alcohol and doing drugs. Learn the risks and explain them to your children. Check out this post about how drugs and alcohol affect the growing teenage brain. Read this post for 7 consequences of underage drinking.

  1. Set clear rules, limits and expectations

Make it clear that you do not want your child drinking alcohol or using drugs and that you trust them not to.  Talk about possible consequences of drug and alcohol use, both legal and medical, and be clear about what you will do if the rules are broken.

  1. Encourage conversations about concerns and questions

Make sure your children know that they can feel comfortable in talking to you about any questions or concerns they have about drugs and alcohol.

  1. Give your children the tools and self-confidence to say no

Children with high refusal skills are less likely to drink underage and do drugs. Decide on good ways to say “no” and practice them often in role-play situations.

  1. Be Honest about family history

Research has clearly documented that addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a chronic, progressive disease that can be linked to family history and genetics.  So, if you have a family history of problems with alcohol or drugs, be matter truthful about it, as you would any other chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

Want more information? Check out our other posts!