Helping Your Child Avoid Tobacco, Drugs, and Alcohol - Topic Overview
The best thing parents can do to help prevent drug and
alcohol misuse by their children is to get involved before a problem
begins. Starting when your child is age 5 or 6, talk with him or her about how these substances are harmful to kids.1 Talk honestly and openly about all kinds of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol
as well as other things kids may do to cope with stress in their lives. Using any kind of substance is just one way that children try to deal with things that bother them.
Focus on the positive
- Discuss ways for your child to make responsible
choices, no matter what his or her friends are saying or
- Praise achievements. Never miss a chance to praise your
child and build his or her self-esteem.
- Set a positive example. If
you smoke, try to quit. Cigarettes tend to be a "gateway" drug for kids. If you
drink alcohol, drink only in moderation. Never drink alcohol and drive. Also,
take medicines only as prescribed by your doctor.
- Help your child get
involved in sports, clubs, hobbies, and other activities. These activities can
help teach kids that they can have fun without drugs and
- Spend time with your child. When you take part in your
child's life, you show you care. You also get to know your child's routines and
can more easily recognize when he or she may get in situations involving drugs
Explain the dangers and consequences of tobacco, drug, or alcohol use
- Tell your child how the body gets
addicted to nicotine and other drugs. Explain
withdrawal symptoms that happen when a person tries to
quit. Tell your child it may take only one cigarette to start a dependence on
- Talk about the legal problems
that can result from using drugs or alcohol. For example, a person younger than
18 can lose his or her driver's license or be sentenced to community service or time in a detention
- Discuss how people who are using drugs
or alcohol can say or do things that they normally would not. It is easy to
make bad choices, get hurt, and get into trouble. For example, people may end up driving
while drunk or riding with someone who is drunk, or they may find themselves in
an unsafe place.
- Set clear limits about what will happen if your
child uses drugs or alcohol. Follow through if those rules are broken. Don't
make promises you will not keep. The prospect of parental disapproval is often
one of the most powerful disincentives. Remind your child that you set these
rules because you love your child and don't want him or her to be hurt.
- Explain that inhalants are dangerous. Glue, shoe polish, and
gasoline are the most common substances that adolescents inhale.3
Make sure your child knows that these and other inhalants are harmful. Inhalant
abuse can cause sudden serious health problems, such as
seizures, or death from
sudden heart failure. It can
cause lasting brain damage or other lifelong problems.