Helping Your Child Avoid Tobacco, Drugs, and Alcohol
Positive self-esteem, a supportive family, and positive role models help teens gain confidence to make good choices. Even young children have opinions about substance use. So start early to help your child learn the skills needed to avoid substance use.
- Be a good role model.
As a parent, your attitude toward tobacco, alcohol, and drugs is one of the greatest influences on whether your child will use substances. If you have a substance use disorder, get help. If you quit, your teen is more likely to get help early if your teen starts using a substance.
- Share your beliefs.
They may not act like it, but most children listen to what their parents tell them. Talk with your teen about the effects of substances on emotions, schoolwork, and health. If you have a family history of substance use, talk with your teen about their increased risk for the same problems.
- Get informed.
Learn about the substances commonly used by teens. Find out how the drugs work, what their street names are, and what the signs of being under the influence are.
- Stay connected.
Know your teen's friends. Know where your teen is at all times. Set times when the family is expected to be together, such as at mealtimes. Plan family outings or other family fun activities.
- Be fair and consistent.
Extremes of discipline can increase the risk of substance use.
- Expect your teen to follow the household rules. Set reasonable consequences for unacceptable behavior. Then consistently carry them out.
- Use a parent-teen contract to write down expected behaviors and consequences if the plan isn't followed.
- Praise your teen for successes.
- Encourage activities.
Keep your teen busy with meaningful activities, such as sports, church programs, or other group involvement. Teens who feel good about themselves are less likely to use alcohol and drugs.
- Talk about the personal and legal consequences.
- Talk about how the use of substances while trying to develop adult skills—like going to school or getting a job—can affect your teen's future.
- Explain that substance use can lead to behaviors such as unsafe sex, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy.
- Remind your teen that it's illegal for teens to use any substances.
- Talk about the increased risk of car crashes, violence, and arrests because of substance use.
Helping your teen say "no" to drugs and other substances
You can teach your teen these ways to say no if your teen is offered drugs.
- Look the person in the eye and say, "No thanks." Sometimes that is all you need to do. Say it as many times as you need to. Also ask the person not to ask you again: "I'm cool with my decision, so don't bother me again."
- Say why you don't want to use drugs. Here are some examples: "I don't like how I act when I'm on drugs," "I like to know what I'm doing," "If my parents find out, they'll take my car away," or "I have to practice with my band tomorrow."
- Walk out. It's okay to leave a party or group where others are using drugs.
- Offer another idea. "I'd rather play video games" or "Let's listen to some music." By doing this, you might also prevent your friend from using drugs.
- Ask for respect. Make it clear that you don't want to use drugs and that continuing to ask you is showing no respect for your opinions. "I don't give you a hard time, so why are you giving me a hard time?"
- Think ahead. If you think you might go someplace where people are using drugs, don't go. But if you do go, think in advance about what you will do if someone offers you drugs.
- Growth and Development, Ages 11 to 14 Years
- Growth and Development, Ages 15 to 18 Years
- Growth and Development, Ages 6 to 10 Years
- Helping Kids Handle Peer Pressure
- Helping Your Child Build Inner Strength
- Stress in Children and Teens
- Teen Alcohol and Drug Use
- Teen Substance Use: Making a Contract With Your Teen
- Tobacco Use in Teens
Current as of: March 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine