How to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs and Addiction

Parents are obligated to protect their children from the dangers they will encounter in life. But what about drugs and alcohol? Parental guidance goes a long way when it comes to an individual’s perceptions about the truth about drugs and alcohol. 

Above all, make your child feel comfortable when discussing this topic with you. Make sure that your child understands that they can speak to you about anything. If not from you, your kids will find answers, whether right or wrong. If they do not feel comfortable speaking to their parents, they will find answers elsewhere – on the internet, from a classmate or through their own risky use experiments.  

How to Explain Drugs to a Child

1 – Start Sending Out the Message as Early as Possible

At an early age, around preschool, parents should start indirectly sending out the desired messages about drugs and alcohol. The younger a child is, the more receptive the child will be. When they get fever medicine or an antibiotic, for example, you could explain what the drugs do to the body. You could also take this opportunity to explain how medicines should be used only by people who need them. 

Also, when they eat candy or drink a soda, you should explain the effects of sugar. Allowing your child, at an early age, to recognize how substances can make the body feel different, will pave the way for a more thorough cognition of drug dependency.

Drugs and alcohol are addictive and can be fatal, but don’t forget to mention that some substances are very good. Smoking a cigarette will damage the body, but eating an apple or any nutritious food will strengthen the body. It is very important that children are not pushed into the world thinking that everything is unhealthy. With the knowledge that some things are good whereas others are bad, the child will be able to forge a desirable path through life. 

2 – Monkey See Monkey Do

A parent is the most influential person in a child’s life. When it comes to explaining the truth about drugs and alcohol to a child, this influence can be good and it could also be bad. A parent could give the most effective and powerful speech about the dangers of alcohol, but if every night, the child watches the parent get drunk, mixed messages will inevitably cloud the child’s mind.

The main message you need to convey when you talk to your kids about drugs is responsibility. Drinking in moderation reinforces this concept. But if your kid watches you drink in excess, lectures about responsibility might be in vain. Imagine listening to someone talking about the dangers of drugs and alcohol while they are drinking beer and chain smoking.

3 – Use Your Judgment When Talking About Your Past

Knowledge of your kid should guide your discussion. A parent could give the most effective speech about how to avoid drugs, but if they say something about their past or present that turns out not to be true, it could have major consequences. On the flipside, a parent could tell a little too much about past drug use, which might inspire curiosity in a child. 

When you talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol you may have the child asking questions about the parent’s usage. Did you ever try drugs? Why? And what was it like? Tell the truth about drugs and alcohol. Your child will respect you no matter what your past was like. In fact, someone who was once a user could become an authority on the subject. Such experience could be the most persuasive element of your speech. It all depends on your child. Some kids respect honesty. Whereas others may just want to talk.  

If you are not honest with your children when you talk to your kids about drugs, why would you expect them to be honest with you? By opening up and revealing your faults, your child will only respect you more. Because of your honesty, perhaps in the future, they will be honest with you, if they slip and try something.

4 – The Pitfalls of Peer Pressure

What if your child’s education consisted of sitting in an empty class room everyday, watching a teacher on a television screen? Such a scenario would certainly be lonely, but the advantage would be that this child would not be introduced to drugs. Kids experiment with drugs and alcohol because they want to fit in. 

Explain to your child that we are either leaders or followers. Don’t dance to the beat of someone else’s drum, but your own. What is more cool – to smoke a cigarette because everyone else is doing it, or to walk away, and not to succumb to peer pressure? 

Of course, this is easier said than done. Tell your child some of your own stories, where you prevailed against peer pressure, or maybe a story where you succumbed to the crowds, but describe the guilt you felt afterwards or sickness you might have endured.

How Not to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs

1 – One Chat is Certainly Not Enough

Teaching your kid the truth about drugs and alcohol will arguably be one of the most important lessons that they learn from you. Don’t think that this epic topic can be covered during a commercial break of a baseball game. When teaching a child about chemical dependency, one of the most important things is to talk to your kids about drugs often. In fact, the more often a parent discusses the truth about drugs and alcohol, the more likely that the topic will sink in.

Though these conversations are immensely important, do not think of them as such. While you are watching a movie with your kid, and a character starts smoking a cigarette or drinking a beer, seize the opportunity and remark about the hazards of those specific drugs. Your kid may reply or they may not. That doesn’t matter. Just try to continually reinforce these perceptions that drugs and alcohol are addictive and fatal.

2 – Ideally, Do More Listening Than Talking

When you try to talk to your kids about drugs, your kids may not react or they may be silent. The trick to the conversation though, is to make the kid start talking. Ask lots of questions about anything related to drugs and alcohol. 

If you are watching television with your child, and a character on-screen performs drug use, strike up a conversation. Ask your child if they know what that drug is. Ask if they know anyone at school who also does the drug. 

If you are at a restaurant, point to the bar and ask about alcohol. Because alcohol is legal, a child may dismiss the danger and addiction that alcohol poses. As a result, children may be more comfortable while talking about alcohol. Use this to your advantage. A parent needs to make their child feel comfortable while discussing drugs and alcohol.

3 – Don’t Use Long-Term Smoking or Drinking Effects to Deter Your Child

Parents should focus on immediate effects. Drinking and driving could be fatal, however a kid might consider getting their license taken away a far more ominous threat. Cigarette smoking causes bad breath, bad skin and a constant cough – not exactly the most attractive date to the prom. Likewise, drug use will affect an athlete’s performance. 

4 – Don’t Be a Buddy All the Time – Lay Down the Law

An effective drug and alcohol discourse between a parent and a child will only occur if the child trusts the parent. This can not be repeated enough. However, there comes a time when the parent must ditch the buddy persona and assume the role of the judge and the enforcer. Children must understand that there will be consequences if they abuse drugs or alcohol. 

Knowledge About Today’s Drugs Puts a Parent in a Good Position

When you talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol, try to know what you are talking about. Any parent that attempts this topic without the knowledge, will be ignored at best and mocked at worst. Remember, the purpose of these talks is to communicate – sharing the dangers of alcohol and drugs with your kid. A complete lack of knowledge about the drugs your kid is being tempted with, will just be more resistance to this trusting bond. 

How to Convey That Addiction Is a Disease

The first time someone drinks alcohol or uses drugs, they believe that they can control their usage. Remember, the young are invincible, this cigarette or this bottle of beer are no match. However, due to tolerance, after some time, the user will need to take more drugs or alcohol to achieve the initial intoxication. This is how chemicals react in our body. The more that the user consumes drugs, the more indestructible the tolerance becomes hence, more drugs need to be consumed. 

Show your child how the diseases of drug and alcohol dependency are treated. Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center is a leader in treatment for those suffering from addiction. Sit down with your child and examine the extensive list of effective treatments used at Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center, Outpatient Detox, Inpatient Treatment, Partial Hospitalization Program, Intensive Outpatient Program, Recovery Supportive Housing and so many more.

When your kid learns that drug and alcohol dependency is actually a disease, with an elaborate industry of facilities and technology aimed at treating it, they might begin to view the disorder differently.

What and When to Tell Your Kids About Drugs

Start discussing the truth about drugs and alcohol with your child as early as possible. Jennifer Carrano, an assistant professor of human development and family science with the University of Delaware, suggests preschool age as the ideal time to start the discourse. 


At such a young age, say preschool to seven, there is no need for the parent to frighten their children with stories of overdoses and heroin addiction. Start with the basics of drugs. Like when a parent dispenses fever or pain medicine, they should include a brief summary of when and why they are used. If a character on television is smoking a cigarette or drinking a beer, be sure to explain how such substances are harmful to the body.

  • Teach the benefits of eating healthy and staying fit.
  • Award children for making their own decisions, by allowing them to choose what to eat for dinner or what movies to watch. As a result, a child will be confident in their decision making.

Eight to Twelve

When kids are a bit older, say eight to twelve, parents should expect their kids to know what drugs are. This is a good age for a parent to begin a dynamic conversation about drug and alcohol usage with their children. Parents should ask their children what they think about drugs. Open conversations on the subject at an early age will allow a child to feel more comfortable about the topic at a later age, when they may feel less inclined to talk about the topic with their parents. 

  • Lay down the laws. At this age parents should illustrate the harsh consequences of trying nicotine or other substances.
  • Puberty is at this age, and could cause insecurity in children. Be sure to shower them with praise, so they don’t feel a need to experiment with substances. 
  • Parents should get to know their children’s friends. Also, know the family of their friends. What goes on in their homes?


At this point in a kid’s life, they most likely know people who do drugs or have tried drugs themselves. This is a good time to explain the gritty aspects of drugs, like the legal consequences as well as addiction. If the child feels uncomfortable discussing the topic, the parent should explain that they are ready to talk about it whenever the child is. 

  • Explain what the laws are involving drugs and alcohol and vehicles. 
  • Continue to praise your child. High school could be a tough time. As long as children are confident with themselves, they should be able to avoid temptation.

Check Out a Treatment Center Website With Your Kid Today

The talk is something of a coming of age event. After all, your kid might see drug use on their favorite television programs and perhaps they discuss drug use with their friends, but for the first time, their parents are speaking to them about it. During this conversation, for the first time, the child’s two worlds – in the house and outside the house – collide. 

A very effective way to show your kid all the consequences that may come with substance use is to go to a treatment center website. Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center is an excellent site to illustrate the complete damage that drug and alcohol usage can cause.

Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center offers a complete variety of therapies such as holistic wellness, family therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and many more. By offering so many kinds of treatment, your child will learn that every journey towards recovery is different.