Worried Your Kid May be Tempted to Use Drugs?

Talking to them can cut the risk. Here's how to get the conversation started at every age-whether they're toddlers or teens

Conversations are one of the most powerful tools parents can use to connect with and protect their kids. A recent survey from The Partnership at Drugfree.org found that kids who consistently learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use drugs and alcohol than those who do not. But when you’re tackling tough topics, especially those related to drugs and alcohol, just figuring out what to say can be a challenge.

Here are some simple tips from The Partnership at Drugfree.org, based on common scenarios, to get the conversation going with your child at any age. For more tools and tips, visit TimeToTalk.org.

Preschool

Scenario: Giving your child a daily vitamin.

What to Say: Vitamins help your body grow. You need to take them every day so that you’ll grow up big and strong like mommy and daddy—but you should only take what I give you. Too many vitamins can hurt your body and make you sick.

Scenario: Your kids are curious about medicine bottles around the house.

What to Say: You should only take medicines that have your name on them or that your doctor has chosen just for you. If you take medicine that belongs to somebody else, it could be dangerous and make you sick.

Scenario: Your child sees an adult smoking and, since you’ve talked about the dangers of smoking, is confused. (Parenting expert Jen Singer says the same script applies to grade-schoolers.)

What to Say: Grown-ups can make their own decisions and sometimes those decisions aren’t the best for their bodies. Sometimes, when someone starts smoking, his or her body feels like it has to have cigarettes—even though it’s not healthy. And that makes it harder for him or her to quit.

Grade School

Scenario: Your child tells you he was offered prescription drugs by a classmate—but said no.

What to Say: After praising your child for making a good choice and for telling you about it, let him know that in the future, he can always blame you to get out of a bad situation. Say, “If you’re ever offered drugs at school, tell that person, ‘My mother would kill me if I took that and then she wouldn’t let me play baseball [or another sport or fun activity]’.”

Scenario: Your grade-schooler comes home reeking of cigarette smoke.

What to Say: I know you’re curious and you wanted to see what smoking was like, but as you can see, it’s pretty disgusting and it probably made you cough and gag a lot. Your clothes and your breath and your hair all stink. Is that how you want to be known? As the kid who stinks?

Scenario: Your child has expressed curiosity about the pills she sees you take every day—and the other bottles in the medicine cabinet.

What to Say: Just because it’s in a family’s medicine cabinet doesn’t mean that it is safe for you to take. Even if your friends say it’s okay, say, “No, my parents won’t let me take something that doesn’t have my name on the bottle.”

Scenario: One in five teens in America has tried huffing—inhaling the fumes from everyday items like nail polish remover, hair spray, and cooking spray. It’s probably been a while since you’ve talked to your child about the dangers of the products under the kitchen sink, but it’s important to reiterate the warning.

What to Say: I know it’s been awhile since I talked to you about the dangers of cleaning products and that they should only be used for cleaning. But I’ve heard that some kids are using them to get high. I just want to let you know that even if your friends say, “Hey, we can buy this stuff at the supermarket so it’s totally okay to sniff it,” it’s not. Inhaling fumes from cleaners or products like cooking spray and nail polish remover is as dangerous as doing all the drugs we’ve talked about, like marijuana. Now, let’s talk about ways you can get out of the situation if that happens. What do you think you should say? Remember, you can always blame me and say, “My mom would kill me if I tried that!”

Next>> How to talk to your pre-teen or teen

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