No parent, child, or family is immune to the effects of drugs. Any kid can end up in trouble,
even those who have made an effort to avoid it and even when they have been given the
proper guidance from their parents.

Kids who have friends who use drugs are likely to try drugs themselves.
Those feeling socially isolated for whatever reason may turn to drugs.

Starting the conversation about drugs with your child can seem
like a very daunting task but it can also save their lives later on.

When should I start?

Preschool - Age 7

Before you get nervous you’ve probably already laid the groundwork for a discussion. For instance, whenever you give your child medicine or an antibiotic, you can discuss why and when these medicines should be given. This is also a time when your child is likely to pay attention to your behavior and guidance.
Take advantage of these “teachable moments” now. If you see a character in a movie or on TV with a cigarette, talk about smoking and what smoking does to a person’s body. This can lead into a discussion about other drugs and how they too could cause harm.
Keep the tone of these discussions calm and use terms and words that your child can easily understand. Be specific about the effects of the drugs: how they make a person feel, the risk of overdose, and the other long-term damage they can cause. You may have have to do some research but check out our drug glossary for more information.

Ages 8 to 12

As your kids grow older, you can begin talks with them by asking them what they think about drugs. By asking the questions in a nonjudgmental, open-ended way, you’re more likely to get an honest response.
Remember: show your kids that you’re listening and really paying attention to their concerns and questions.
Kids this age usually are still willing to talk openly to their parents about touchy subjects. Starting a dialogue now helps keep the door open as your kids get older and are less inclined to share their thoughts and feelings. Even if your questions don’t immediately result in a discussion, you’ll get your kids thinking about the issue. Show them that you’re willing to discuss the topic and hear what they have to say. Then, they might be more willing to come to you for help in the future.

Ages 13 to 18

Teenagers this age are likely to know other teens who use drugs and value the opinions of their friends over anybody else.

There is a silver lining though!
Many are still willing to express their thoughts or concerns with parents about drugs, it just may take some time. They may ask you more specific questions about drugs and they may also use other people as examples for something they may be curious about themselves.
Use these conversations not only to understand your child’s thoughts and feelings, but also to talk about the dangers of drugs and things they may not have considered. Talk about the legal issues — jail time and fines — and the possibility that they or someone else might die or seriously injury themselves as a result of drug use.

You do not want to scare them! Shouting, lecturing or not giving them a chance to speak will close the door of communication for years.
You can promise to pick your kids up at any time (even 2 a.m.!), no questions asked – they need to know that if they are in trouble that they can 100% rely on you to help and not to give out.
Giving them real life examples and likely scenarios of what could happen if they use drugs will get them thinking critically and not just with the mentality that “nothing can hurt me!”.
By discussing all of this with your kids from the start, you eliminate surprises and make your expectations clear.


Nothing thing will shut down a conversation faster than judging or immediately disapproving of their choices.
Stick to facts – College is an experimental phase and at this point in your child’s life they will be able to make choices and decisions for themselves but because their brains are not fully developed (yet!) consequence of actions may not always factor into play. The mental process is usually act now and think after.
You want to treat them as adults and equals. Stick to the facts, don’t over lecture, use a condescending tone and be honest (you will gain their respect). Sadly they are heavily exposed to drug use in college and it really is about minimizing harms to them and helping them make informed, educated choices.

Set an Example

Most parents come home and after all the tasks are complete you may enjoy a glass of wine (or 2!) to unwind but you need to begin to set an example. Young people generally think in the “Monkey See, Monkey Do” mentality whereby if they see you doing something they then think it’s the new normal. Alcohol is a drug that kills more people worldwide than any other drug so try not to normalise alcohol if at all possible. 

Wait until your child has gone to bed or is out of the room before unwinding with a drink. This will help facilitate your conversation when you approach the topic of alcohol and underage drinking and your child won’t be able to argue your points by stating things like ” Well you drink a glass every evening and that’s fine”.

I Smoked Two Joints!

Your child has just come home and notified you of this. What is the first thought running through your mind right now? I’m sure it’s not a warm and welcoming embrace.

STOP – Clench your fist, turn around and come back in 5 mins. 

You need to take a breather and gather your thoughts. The single worst thing you can do is immediately retaliate and start shouting. This will no solve anything and will shut that door of communication. Instead come back sit down and ask your child to explain what is going on – they will tell you. Show them that you are listening, seeing their point of view and then give them factual information. Assure them you are here to help. 

You should explain how you care about them and their future. Teens who feel supported and loved are also more likely to stop experimenting with drugs or seek help if they have an addiction.

There is no shame in getting more help and there are a wide range of great and confidential resources available. 

Give them an Escape!

Peer pressure is something every young person will go through at some stage of their lives but a lot of the time your child may not want to participate but sees no way out. They don’t want to be branded as uncool or a loser by their peers but they also understand that what they are about to do is wrong.

Give them an escape! 

Parents have played “the bad guy” for centuries so you will be well used to it. Pick a word that your child can text you at anytime and you will immediately know to call them and start telling them you want them home.

They will have to tell their friends that they must go, you look like the bad guy saving them the stress and embarrassment of saying no and your child is home safe and sound – everybody wins!