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How to talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

Talking to your kids about tough topics

Though it can be difficult to discuss drug and alcohol use with your kids, it's essential to talk with your children early and often, to keep them educated and informed.
Mom talking to tween daughter

Learn how to initiate conversations and speak candidly to your children to help prevent your kids from getting involved with drugs and alcohol now and in the future.

Step 1: Start early

From the time your children are in preschool, you can begin telling them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol use. It's important to connect with your kids and talk to them in age-appropriate language. What you say to a kindergartener certainly won't be the same thing you say to a teenager. For preschoolers, you may talk in terms of vitamins and medications, and discuss things like drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes as adult decisions that aren't necessarily healthy. As kids get older, you can talk about peer pressure and temptation, the dangers of drinking and driving, the legality and dangers of drugs, and other specifics.

Read about talking to teens about drugs >>

Step 2: Take advantage of teachable moments

Rather than sitting down and have "the talk" about drugs and alcohol, take advantage of the teachable moments that occur in everyday life. If you watch a movie where a teenager smokes cigarettes or see on TV about a celebrity entering rehab or an athlete getting arrested for DUI, this can be the perfect opportunity to start the discussion with your children about drugs and alcohol.

Step 3: Be honest

If your children ask if you've ever used drugs, don't lie. Tell the truth. You don't have to tell all the details about the incident(s), but you should be honest. Use this time to talk about what tempted you to use drugs and why you want your child to avoid making the same mistakes that you made.

Read about how to stop lying to your kids >>

Step 4: Keep the lines of communication open

Make it very clear to your child that they can talk to you at anytime about drug and alcohol use, or any other difficult subject. Let them know that calling at 3 a.m. for a ride home is okay -- getting in a car with someone who has been drinking is not.

Step 5: Seek out additional help

If you are having difficulty talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol, many resources are available to help. Check out websites such as timetotalk.org, theantidrug.com and drugfree.org for tips, guides and tool kits to help you initiate conversations and have ongoing dialogue with your kids to keep them drug- and alcohol-free.

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