Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Drugs

How much do you tolerate drug use? The more you do, the more likely your teenager will use drugs. The more you make it clear that you have a zero-tolerance for drug use, the more likely your kids will hold the same views 1.

• Keep tabs on what your kids are seeing in the media. A lot of shows (and YouTube videos) make it look cool (and funny) to use marijuana and other drugs.

• Periodically ask your kids what they think about certain drugs. If they say all drugs are bad, ask them to rank drugs in order from least risky to most risky. You may be surprised what they consider to be least risky.

• Listen. Ask kids what they know about their peers using drugs. Find out what your kids think of their school’s views and tolerance for drugs.

Download free conversation starters about preventing drug use from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

• Make sure that what you say matches what you do. If you tell kids not to use drugs (and you use drugs), they’re going to learn more from your actions than your words. If you’re taking medication to deal with an illness or disease, talk about that honestly and how you use the medication under a doctor’s orders.

• Eat dinner together as often as possible and have fun, lively conversations. Kids who eat dinner with their families on most nights (compared with kids who never or rarely eat dinner with their families) are less likely to use drugs 2.

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1. Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D. and Ann Levine, You & Your Adolescent: A Parent’s Guide for Ages 10-20, Revised edition, (New York: Harper & Row, 1997), 277-279.

2. Peter Benson, E. Roehlkepartain, & A. Sesma, Jr. “Tapping the Power of Community: The Potential of Asset Building to Strengthen Substance Abuse Prevention,” Insights & Evidence, (Minneapolis: Search Institute, March 2004).