700 Children's Blog

How to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs

Jun 19, 2018
image of a teen girl and her mom drinking coffee

There are many challenges faced by parents as their children develop; one important concern is how to raise kids to not use drugs.

Setting an Example

Many of children’s behaviors are patterned after their parents. Therefore, as children grow up, parents should try to set an example of not using drugs. Not smoking or drinking alcohol in excess helps parents model expected behavior.

Conversations around the dinner table should focus on what traits the family would like to see in their children like honesty, dependability, school involvement and respect. It is good to suggest these traits are important when choosing friends, as well.

Peer Pressure

All teens are influenced by peer pressure. The strength of peer pressure declines when a child has a strong, positive self-esteem. Parents can help build self-esteem by encouraging youth to be involved in music, sports and family activities. Parents should praise their children’s hard work, good choices and mature behavior.

Involving children in adult activities teaches them how to politely interact and show interest in other people’s lives. Get to know your children’s friends and share concerns that you might have if a friend seems to be using drugs.

Having the Talk

The adolescent brain at age 12-15 is extremely vulnerable to abuse of drugs. If children ask about drugs, sex and other risky behaviors, parents should give clear messages. When a child understands the repercussions of behavior, they are less likely to develop an addiction or suffer from unfavorable results of their behavior. Some suggestions for discussing drugs with children are:

  • Tell kids to wait as long as possible to try any drugs or alcohol; waiting until age 18 greatly reduces risk of a substance abuse problem.
  • Use drugs and alcohol infrequently, if at all and never use drugs or alcohol and then drive. It is also dangerous to ride with someone who is driving after drinking or using drugs.
  • Parents should tell their children that they will always come and pick them up if they are in a dangerous situation.
  • Parents should clearly state that they would be disappointed if their kids start using drugs or alcohol.

Set a positive tone when children ask questions or want to talk about a problem. Don’t blame or make assumptions. Instead, listen without distractions, remain calm and encouraging.

For more information about Nationwide Children's Hospital’s Medication Assisted Treatment for Addiction (MATA) Program, click here.

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Steven C. Matson, MD
Adolescent Health, Interim Chief

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700 Children’s features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.