Five Steps Parents can Take to Prevent Substance Abuse Among Their Children

Father talks with son
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Parents are the first line of defense against young people using drugs and alcohol. However, parents don’t usually know much about the subject, and it’s possible they won’t feel well-equipped to discuss the matter with their kids.

But parents must talk to their kids about drugs and alcohol, the risks and dangers of substance abuse, and the sheer harm that can come from using drugs. Thankfully, there are some simple tips and strategies that parents can implement to help prevent their children from ever experimenting with drugs.

#1) The Power of Communication

Like with so many other aspects of child-rearing, communication is essential to raising sensible, ethical, and aware sons and daughters who know how to navigate challenges and difficult situations in life. Talking to kids about what they’re hearing at school, clearing definitions of drug terms with kids, and going over credible source data on the genuine risks of drug use are all ways to have an open and constructive conversation about drugs.

Short discussions, repeated frequently, go a long way. Parents would do well to remember that they should never have just one conversation about drugs with their kids. Instead, they should have multiple discussions, and they should space these discussions out throughout a kid’s upbringing. Furthermore, these conversations shouldn’t always be the same conversation. As a child grows into adolescence and young adulthood, parents should focus on explaining all of the underlying reasons why drug use must be avoided, making the conversation more personal and impactful as the child grows up. For example, when talking to a young adult, parents should point to the long-term consequences of drug use, as young adults and older teens will have an easier time thinking with long-term effects than a young teen or a child might.

Directly communicating with your children about drugs, educating, discussing, questioning, and simply talking about the subject frequently goes a long way towards preventing drug use.

#2). Tell the Story of the Harmful Nature of Drugs and Alcohol

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Some parents might prefer not to do this. Still, if you do have personal experiences with drugs or alcohol or if someone else within the family experimented with drugs and alcohol, it might be a good idea to talk about those experiences with your kids. This is especially true when the kids are a bit older or are nearing adulthood.

Make sure you drive home the details and the hardships on the struggles connected to your drug use. Never glamorize or idolize drug use, of course. A personal testimonial on the hardship and living nightmare of drug use can paint a vivid picture of why your son or daughter should not use drugs.

#3). Discuss Consequences – Getting Kids to Look at the Long-Term Harm of Drug Use

Talking about the consequences of what might happen should they experiment with drugs is critical to getting your children to say no to drugs. Explain to them the physical and legal implications of using drugs. Make it clear to your children that you don’t want them using drugs, and that there will be consequences if they do.

Talk about why using drugs is not okay. Talk about how it’s against the law, and discuss how drug use hurts more than just the person using drugs. Use examples like car accidents, families ruined by drug use, the transmission of HIV/AIDS due to needle sharing, impaired coordination and slowed growth, poor decision making, etc.

Most importantly, young people need to understand that drug use ruins lives. Whether those lives are ruined by overdose, disease, the loss of a career, an accident, incarceration, or other crises, drug use always ends badly.

#4). Take an Active Role in Peer Groups

While young people might spend most of their time at home or school, they’re not going to spend all of their time in these places. Adolescent children will likely have friend groups that they want to interact with. Since peer pressure is a common factor in one’s initial exposure to drugs, parents should take a direct role in monitoring who their kids spend time with.

The best way to do this is for the parents to involve themselves in their kids’ social lives. Rather than dropping your son off at the mall to socialize with an unknown friend group, why not get him into Boy Scouts and then also join the scout troop as a Scout Master? There are lots of ways that parents could involve themselves in their kids’ social lives. Parents should of course be sure that the involvement is consensual, that kids and parents are finding constructive social activities that both can enjoy doing.

Playing scenario
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If you think your child will be exposed to peer pressure no matter what, set aside time with them to act out scenarios in which one person tries to pressure the other to use substances. Work with your child to figure out two or three ways they could extricate themselves from peer pressure situations.

#5). Make Drug Information a Part of a Child’s Education

Just as we endeavor to teach kids what to do to have a happy, healthy, and prosperous life, we must show them what they should not do. It is no longer sufficient to shake a finger at a young person and say, “Don’t do drugs. Drugs are bad” (if that ever was effective, to begin with). Children are very inquisitive, curious, and these days drugs are more readily available than they perhaps ever were.

In today’s world, parents must commit to educating their kids about drugs. Just telling them to say no to drugs is far from sufficient. Since most of a child’s learning occurs at school, parents should endeavor to get drug education programs implemented within their children’s school. And to help with that, there is a wealth of information available on how best to implement drug education programs.

Seek Help if It is Needed

If your son or daughter has already fallen prey to drug and alcohol use, you must help them seek treatment at a qualified drug and alcohol rehab center. Once someone is addicted to drugs, they can’t cease using drugs without professional help. And the longer someone uses drugs, the more likely they are to suffer severe consequences from such use.

Drug addiction is a horrible, debilitating crisis. But it can be overcome. If someone you care about is using drugs and alcohol, make sure they get help. Contact Narconon today and take the first step towards halting your loved one’s demise.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.