Talk to Your Kids About Alcohol and Other Drugs

By April 20, 2024Health Tips

Yes, research shows that kids do listen to their parents. Even though it may be challenging, talking to your child about alcohol and drugs is important. When you talk to your child about the dangers of alcohol and drug use, you help prepare them to deal with the issue when they are faced with it as they get older. That happens sooner than you may think.

Why should you talk to kids about alcohol and drugs?
  • Talk to your kids about drugs and alcoholHaving open and honest discussions with children helps support a positive parent/child relationship.
  • Children who learn about the risks of alcohol and drugs from their parents are less likely to start using these substances.
  • Making the decision not to talk about alcohol and drugs also sends kids a message. If you do not talk about it, they might assume that alcohol and drugs are harmless and may be more likely to experiment with them.
When is the right time to talk to kids about alcohol and drugs?
START EARLY! By the time kids start kindergarten, most children have seen adults drinking alcohol, either on TV or in real life. By the time kids are in 8th grade, most say alcohol is easy to get. By age 12, some kids are already drinking alcohol, using inhalants, or even using marijuana or prescription pain medications.
Experts agree that you should consider talking to your child about alcohol and drugs at least by the time they are 9 years old. I think sooner is better.
This should not be a one-time conversation. You should continue to discuss the issue as they get older. Talk to them early and often.
How do you start the conversation? What do you say?
Here are some tips about what to say and how to go about it.
  • Ask them what they know or what they have heard about alcohol and drugs.
  • Use everyday events to start a conversation. For example, if you have just watched a TV show in which people were drinking alcohol, talk to them about how alcohol affects the body.
  • Give them your full attention. Turn off your phone and eliminate other distractions. Don’t just talk; really listen to what they say as well.
  • Reinforce why you don’t want them to drink alcohol or use drugs – because you want them to be safe, healthy, and happy. They are more likely to listen when they know you are concerned about their well-being.
  • Make it a discussion, rather than a lecture. Encourage them to ask questions. And be prepared to answer those questions.
  • Teach them the facts, including correcting false information that they may have heard. Get the facts beforehand so you can provide reliable information. You want to establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information. They should be making informed decisions. You don’t want them to learn about alcohol and other drugs from unreliable sources. Here are a couple of links with information on the health effects of substances: Make a Difference: Talk to Your Child About Alcohol – Parents | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) ( Parents & Educators | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (
  • Help your child to come up with a plan to avoid alcohol and drug use. Don’t simply tell them to “say no”. Help them practice different ways to turn down substances offered to them. They might like to have a “code word” they can text a family member to help get them out of an uncomfortable situation.
  • Don’t forget to talk about prescription drugs and steroids. Misuse of these drugs is a growing problem.
  • Keep it low-key. And don’t worry about getting everything into one talk. Plan to have many short talks over time.
  • Explain your rules regarding alcohol and drug use. Let them know what will happen if they break the rules, and follow through on those consequences if they do.
  • Don’t forget that you are a roll model, and they are watching you from a very young age. If you drink alcohol, explain the reasons why drinking responsibly as an adult is different from underage drinking. Their developing brains (up to age 25) are different from adult brains.
Here are some other links with more information. The first one talks about strategies for talking with different age groups.
If you have any questions about talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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