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Would your 4-year-old say no to drugs?

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

How young is too young?

Would your child know how to respond if he was offered pot? After all, not many of us think about talking to our preschoolers about identifying and saying no to drugs.

Countless parents send their 4-year-olds off to school each day, never expecting them to be offered pot at recess. But that's exactly what happened at one Connecticut elementary school. According to a recent Reuter's article, a young special-needs student brought nine bags of marijuana to school and indicated he'd like to share with his classmates.

Start 'em early

While parents may not think about sitting their preschoolers down to talk about drugs, it may be a good idea. "Substance abuse is a problem plaguing our country and children are being regularly exposed to drugs and alcohol at earlier stages in their development," says Dr. Jerry Weichman, a clinical psychologist. "I believe that the discussion of drugs and alcohol needs to begin once your child is old enough to conceptualize the topic." Of course, we all mature at different rates so parents really need to be in tune with their child's understanding of such topics. "The initial discussion should take place somewhere between three and five years of age."

What to say

How do you approach the topic of drugs with a child so young? "Parents need to reiterate that there are things out there that will make them feel bad and sick and that they should not accept anything to eat or drink from people that they do not know and if they do not know what something is, not to take it and bring it to a teacher or their parents," says Dr. Weichman. "You do not want to go into greater detail than this due to the fact that some children can develop anxiety when receiving more detailed information at this age."

Weigh in

Where do you stand on the issue? Is your preschooler prepared to say no to drugs or are you waiting a little longer to tackle the topic?

"The thought of my preschooler being around drugs at school freaks me out, honestly," says Robin, a mom of three from Texas. "I've always targeted middle school for the drug talk but maybe I should start working it in earlier."

"No way would I talk to my preschooler about drugs," says Erica, a mom in Washington. "Childhood is too short as it is. In a case like this, I would have to trust that the teachers would be on top of what's happening, especially with the students being so young."

The positive side of the Connecticut incident is that it may prompt parents to attack the drug talk sooner rather than later. Are you one of them? Let us know.

Sound Off

What's the right age for the drug talk? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Read more

Keeping kids off drugs
How to help your child talk to you
Parenting preschoolers

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