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Future Health

Talking to your child about drugs and alcohol

February 6, 2013 

Studies show that children who begin drinking before the age of 15 are fives times more likely to develop problems with alcohol than those who start after the age of 21.

Talking to your child about the hazards of alcohol and drugs is an important step to help prepare them for the time when they are exposed to teenage substance use among their peers. 
Understanding the facts, including the cause and effect of substance abuse, will help give your teen the tools to make smarter choices. 
Talk to your child early
  • Educate them on the facts about drugs, alcohol and tobacco
  • Determine what your child already knows
  • Implement rules and guidelines
  • Be ready to answer questions your child may have
  • Talk with them about peer pressure and how to say "no" 
Adolescents have begun drinking alcohol and using tobacco at earlier ages than ever before. Research shows that speaking with them early and often is essential in shaping their attitudes toward drugs and alcohol. Even at younger ages, children are exposed to adults who drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, whether on TV, the Internet, restaurants, or even at family gatherings.
Children listen to their parents
Studies show that the number one reason adolescents chose not to drink alcohol was because they experienced disapproval from their parents. Talking to your child as early as kindergarten may be beneficial to ensure that they know from the start how you feel about these substances. Starting early will also help convey how important it is for them to stay safe and avoid circumstances in which they might be pressured or unwittingly participate in alcohol or drug use.
Giving your child the facts can help reduce the incidence of several preventable issues, making them less likely to experience:
  • Difficulty in school, such as inappropriate behavior or grades
  • Incidents of drinking and driving
  • Involvement in an act of crime
  • Development of habits that can turn into addiction
It's never too late to talk to your child. Even if your child has already experimented with substances, your disapproval will shape their future attitude toward it and help them make the right choice next time. Having conversations early also sends a clear message that you are open to questions and dialogue on these topics, so that your child can feel comfortable coming to you with questions in the future.