With Kids About Alcohol and Drugs
The issue of drugs can be very confusing to young
children. If drugs are so dangerous, then why
is the family medicine cabinet full of them?
And why do TV, movies, music and advertising
often make drug and alcohol use look so cool?
We need to help our kids to distinguish fact
from fiction. And it's not too soon to begin.
National studies show that the average age when
a child first tries alcohol is 11; for marijuana,
it's 12. And many kids start becoming curious
about these substances even sooner. So let's
Student surveys reveal that when parents listen
to their children's feelings and concerns, their
kids feel comfortable talking with them and are
more likely to stay drug-free.
Role-play how to say "no."
Role-play ways in which your child can refuse
to go along with his friends without becoming
a social outcast. Try something like this, "Let's
play a game. Suppose you and your friends are
at Andy's house after school and they find some
beer in the refrigerator and ask you to join
them in drinking it. The rule in our family is
that children are not allowed to drink alcohol.
So what could you say?"
If your child comes up with a good response,
praise him. If he doesn't, offer a few suggestions
like, "No, thanks. Let's play with Sony
PlayStation instead," or "No thanks.
I don't drink beer. I need to keep in shape for
Allow your child plenty of opportunity to become
a confident decision-maker. An 8-year-old is
capable of deciding if she wants to invite lots
of friends to her birthday party or just a close
pal or two. A 12-year-old can choose whether
she wants to go out for chorus or join the school
band. As your child becomes more skilled at making
all kinds of good choices, both you and she will
feel more secure in her ability to make the right
decision concerning alcohol and drugs if and
when the time arrives.
Provide age-appropriate information.
Make sure the information that you offer fits
the child's age and stage. When your 6 or 7-year-old
is brushing his teeth, you can say, "There
are lots of things we do to keep our bodies healthy,
like brushing our teeth. But there are also things
we shouldn't do because they hurt our bodies,
like smoking or taking medicines when we are
If you are watching TV with your 8 year-old and
marijuana is mentioned on a program, you can
say, "Do you know what marijuana is? It's
a bad drug that can hurt your body." If
your child has more questions, answer them. If
not, let it go. Short, simple comments said and
repeated often enough will get the message across.
You can offer your older child the same message,
but add more drug-specific information. For example,
you might explain to your 12-year-old what marijuana
and crack look like, their street names and how
they can affect his body.
Establish a clear family position on drugs.
It's okay to say, "We don't allow any drug
use and children in this family are not allowed
to drink alcohol. The only time that you can
take any drugs is when the doctor or Mom or Dad
gives you medicine when you're sick. We made
this rule because we love you very much and we
know that drugs can hurt your body and make you
very sick; some may even kill you. Do you have
Be a good example.
Children will do what you do much more readily
than what you say. So try not to reach for a
beer the minute you come home after a tough day;
it sends the message that drinking is the best
way to unwind. Offer dinner guests non-alcoholic
drinks in addition to wine and spirits. And take
care not to pop pills, even over-the-counter
remedies, indiscriminately. Your behavior needs
to reflect your beliefs.
Discuss what makes a good friend.
Since peer pressure is so important when it comes
to kids' involvement with drugs and alcohol,
it makes good sense to talk with your children
about what makes a good friend. To an 8-year-old
you might say, "A good friend is someone
who enjoys the same games and activities that
you do and who is fun to be around." 11
to 12-year-olds can understand that a friend
is someone who shares their values and experiences,
respects their decisions and listens to their
feelings. Once you've gotten these concepts across,
your children will understand that "friends" who
pressure them to drink or smoke pot aren't friends
at all. Additionally, encouraging skills like
sharing and cooperation -- and strong involvement
in fun, healthful activities (such as team sports
or scouting) -- will help your children make
and maintain good friendships as they mature
and increase the chance that they'll remain drug-free.
Kids who feel good about themselves are much
less likely than other kids to turn to illegal
substances to get high.
As parents, we can do many things to enhance
our children's self-image. Here are some pointers:
Offer lots of praise for any job well done.
If you need to criticize your child, talk
about the action, not the person. If your son gets
a math problem wrong, it's better to say, "I
think you added wrong. Let's try again."
Assign do-able chores. A 6-year-old can bring
her plate over to the sink after dinner; a 12-year-old
can feed and walk the dog after school. Performing
such duties and being praised for them helps
your child feel good about himself.
Spend one-on-one time with your youngster. Setting
aside at least 15 uninterrupted minutes per child
per day to talk, play a game, or take a walk
together, lets her know you care. Say, "I
love you." Nothing will make your child
Repeat the message.
Information and lessons about drugs are important
enough to repeat frequently. So be sure to answer
your children's questions as often as they ask
them to initiate conversation whenever the opportunity
If you suspect a problem, seek help.
While kids under age 12 rarely develop a substance
problem, it can - and does -- happen. If your
child becomes withdrawn, loses weight, starts
doing poorly in school, turns extremely moody,
has glassy eyes -- or if the drugs in your medicine
cabinet seem to be disappearing too quickly --
talk with your child and reach out to any one
of the organizations listed here. You'll be helping
your youngster to a healthier, happier future.
Read below for some answers to common questions
kids have about drugs:
“ Why do people take bad or illegal
There are lots of reasons. Maybe they don't know
how dangerous they are. Or maybe they feel bad
about themselves or don't know how to handle
their problems. Or maybe they don't have parents
they can talk to. Why do you think they do it?
“ Why are some drugs good and some
drugs bad for you?”
When you get sick, the drugs the doctor gives
you will help you get better. But if you take
these drugs when you're healthy, they can make
you sick. Also, there are some drugs, like marijuana
or crack, that are never good for you. To be
safe, never ever take any drugs unless Mom, Dad
or the doctor says it's okay.