Tools for Parents

Although such topics as the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs are emotionally charged, they are a natural and necessary part of communicating process you have with your child. Clearly, the best time for such a conversation about drugs is when your child brings up the topic. For most parents, however, it's not this easy and it may become your responsibility to raise the subject. You'll want to pick a time and a place that make it possible for you and your child to be comfortable and undisturbed.

Observation & Listening

Remember that the purpose of this encounter is communication, so listen to everything your child has to say. Observe his or her nonverbal cues - they will let you know how he or she feels about having this conversation. Listening means paying special attention to what is said, both verbally and non-verbally.

Communication is Key

Communicating with your child about drug use should not be a one-time occurrence or a one-way process. Conversations about tobacco, alcohol and other drugs are not like inoculations that can protect children for all time. Talk with your children often as they grown from preschool to adulthood.

Common Concerns Parents Have

"I don't want to be a hypocrite..."

What if you smoke, enjoy the occasional cocktail or experimented with drugs once yourself? This is a legitimate concern, but it should not dissuade you from communicating honestly with your child and sharing what experience has taught you. You don't have to project a perfect image to be an effective communicator! We are all human, and this is in itself an important message.

"I don't want to plant ideas in my child's head..."

Are you concerned that you might inadvertently prompt your child to consider drug use when it wasn't even in his or her mind to begin with? Don't worry; discussions don't suddenly make children users. In fact, you can safely assume that your child is already aware of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Discussing these topics clarifies information and lets children know your views - it doesn't invite them to use these substances.

"I am uncomfortable with this role..."

There us nothing wrong with sharing your discomfort with your child. No doubt he or she already senses it. An admission from you reassures your child that your anxiety stems from within you, not from something he or she has said or done.