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Talking to Children About Substance Abuse and Addiction

People can become addicted to drugs or alcohol at any age, but one way that parents can stay proactive is to talk to their children about the dangers of substance abuse.  According to, those children whose parents spend time talking to them about the risks that drugs and alcohol pose are up to 50 percent less likely to use them than those whose parents do not.  Conversations don’t have to be formal or planned ahead of time.  They can easily stem from everyday “teachable moments.”  What is important is actually having these conversations and having them often.

There are several ways that parents can make talking to their children and teens about drugs and alcohol easier:

Stay Informed

Parents should make sure that they are armed with accurate and up-to-date information about drugs and alcohol.  They should read up and follow the news to find out about the latest trends and developments.  This can help them to better connect with their children – especially teenagers.  Parents should understand the terminology that is used and how adolescents are gaining access to and using these substances.

Build Strong Bonds

From the time they are born, parents should spend time bonding with their children.  As they grow up, engage in open communication.  Make them feel comfortable discussing whatever is on their mind.  Parents should let their children know that they can come to them at any time, no matter what the problem is.  Listen to what they have to say and be respectful of their feelings.  Helping children to work through their problems, stand up to peer pressure, and relieve stress, all in healthy ways, can help to prevent their use of drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.  According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, those children who regularly have dinner with their families are less likely to drink or use drugs.  This is also a great time to spend talking and discussing the day.

Take Advantage of Teachable Moments

Opportunities exist everywhere to begin a conversation about the dangers of drug and alcohol use.  Pay attention when watching television or a movie, listening to the radio, driving in the car, reading a book, or at any other time.  These can be great starting points for talking about why certain decisions are unhealthy, and how drugs and alcohol are harmful to the body and mind.  Talk about what the character on television could do differently, or how their choices to use drugs or alcohol have affected them.  Ask children how they feel when they see someone drinking or smoking.  Tie conversations to current events.  Discuss risks in an age-appropriate manner.

Bring up topics naturally as part of conversation.  They don’t have to be a long and drawn out discussion either.  Talk about the situation and move on.  But make it a point to address these things regularly.  The more children hear about making healthy decisions, how to say no, and why substance abuse is harmful, the more it will stick with them.

Be a Positive Role Model

Children are very observant.  They notice what their parents and those around them are doing.  If having a drink, limit it to just one.  Talk about the legal age for drinking, drinking responsibly, and why it is unsafe for children.  Try to avoid using alcohol as a way to relax and unwind.  This can give children the impression that this is common practice and acceptable.  Come up with healthier ways to de-stress.

Take the time to instill in children healthy habits and the knowledge and confidence they need to resist drugs and alcohol.  If you believe that you or a loved one may have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, contact Chapters Capistrano today to see how we can help.  It is never too early to get help.  Become a positive role model and take the steps necessary to live a drug-free life.