Substance Use Prevention Resources for Parents/Guardians
As a parent, you have a major impact on your child’s decision not to use drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. Developing good communication between parents and kids/teens can help parents catch problems early, support positive behavior, and stay aware of what is happening in their children’s lives.
Why teens may drink and use substances
To be better prepared for talking with your child/teen about the risks of substance use, it’s important to understand why your child may decide to drink or use substances:
- To fit in: Feelings of being an outsider and wanting to be included and liked by others are pronounced during the teen years. If the kids your teen wants to be friends with or is hanging out with, are drinking or using substances, they may feel that they need to participate as well or risk being left out.
- To socialize: Some teens use drugs and alcohol to overcome insecurities, let their guard down, or feel socially confident. Substance use may make them feel like they are connecting with others.
- Life transitions: Periods of transition in teens’ lives such as moving, divorce, puberty, changing schools, or an illness or death in the family can become a time of confusion, leading some to attempt to find comfort in alcohol or drugs.
- Emotional or psychological pain: Loneliness, trauma, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety disorder, and other mental health issues are commonly associated with teen substance use.
Strategies to keep your kids healthy and safe
There is no guarantee that your child won’t use substances, but there are prevention strategies to keep your child safe and healthy. Below are 12 Things Parents Can Do to Prevent Addiction from the Addiction Policy Forum.
- Talk early and often: Discuss the risks of using substances
- Support healthy activities: Kids do better when they are kept busy and feel a part of a community
- Set clear expectations: Be clear that you expect them not to use drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.
- Practice refusal skills: Practice responses that your kids can use when offered a drink or drugs, such as: “No, thanks I have a game.” Or “Nope, but I will take a soda/water.”
- Establish clear consequences: Rather than saying “you’ll be in trouble” say “If you use alcohol/drugs the consequence will be ____.”
- Be a parent, not a friend: It may be tempting to be best buds with your kid/teen, but your child needs a parent not another friend.
- Do not provide alcohol or drugs: Adolescent substance use is dangerous no matter where it takes place.
- Pay close attention: Stay involved in your kids’ lives and build relationships with other parents in your community.
- Carve out family time: If your relationship with your child is strong, they will be more likely to come to you for advice or support.
- Prioritize sleep: Getting enough sleep is critical for good mental and physical health.
- Help your child with an escape plan: Create a secret code that they can text to be immediately picked up by an adult and exit the situation.
- Intervene early: If you think your child may be struggling with substance use, don’t wait to get help. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Prescription Drug Take-Back Locator: Keep your family safe by discarding old, unwanted, or unused prescription medication before it ends up in the wrong hands.
Drug Prevention Tips for Every Age: This page provides conversation starters and prevention tips to help guide preschool-age kids to young adults.
Answering Your Child's Tough Questions: Some questions about alcohol and other drugs can be hard to answer, so it’s important to be prepared.
Talking with Kids About Alcohol and Other Drugs: Five Conversation Goals.
Impaired Driving: Talk with Your Kids: Impaired driving remains an issue that affects Americans every day. Use the following tips when talking with your kids about drunk and drug-impaired driving.
Talk. They Hear You.: Download this app to practice having conversations with your kids about alcohol.
Drug Facts for Parents: Learn how drugs affect your teen's brain and how they can impact your teen's life.
Drug Facts for Your Teen: Together with you or on their own, your teen can learn the facts about how drugs affect their brain and body.
PA Start: Find other resources on steps you can take to help your kids on topics such as substance misuse, decision making, coping with stress, and racial equity.