Talk to Your Kids about Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs

The Basics
Talk to your child about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.

Take Action!
Start having conversations about your values and expectations while your child is young.

Start Today: Small Steps

The Basics

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Talk to your child about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. Knowing the facts will help your child make healthy choices.

What do I need to say?
When you talk about tobacco, alcohol, and drugs:

When should I start talking with my child?
Start early. By preschool, most children have seen adults smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, either in real life, on TV, or online.

Make sure your child knows right from the start that you think it’s important to stay safe and avoid drugs.

Here are more reasons to start the conversation early:

What if my child is older?
It’s never too late to start the conversation about avoiding drugs. Even if your teen may have tried tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, you can still talk about making healthy choices and how to say “no” next time.

Get more tips to help your teen stay away from drugs. External Links Disclaimer Logo

What do I need to know about prescriptions and other medicines?
When you talk to your child about the dangers of drugs, don’t forget about drugs that may already be in your home, like prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. These drugs are the third most commonly misused substances by teens age 14 and older (after marijuana and alcohol).

Prescription or OTC drug misuse is when a person uses a drug to get high. People might misuse drugs by:

When not taken safely, prescription and OTC medicines can be just as addictive and dangerous as other drugs.

Commonly misused prescription or OTC drugs include:

Make sure to talk to your kids about the dangers of prescription drug misuse. Share this website about prescription and OTC drug misuse with them.

Set a good example for your kids:

Why do I need to talk to my child?
Research shows that kids do listen to their parents. Children who learn about drug risks from their parents are less likely to start using drugs.

When kids choose not to use alcohol or drugs, they are also less likely to:

If you don't talk about it, your child may think it’s okay to use alcohol and other drugs.

Take Action!

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Talk with your child about tobacco, alcohol, and drugs today – and keep the conversation going.

Talk with your child early and often.
Start conversations about your values and expectations while your child is young. Your child will get used to sharing information and opinions with you. This will make it easier for you to continue talking as your child gets older.

Here are some tips:

Teach your child the facts.
Your child needs to know how drugs can harm the brain, affect the body, and cause problems at home and in school. Kids who know the facts are more likely to make good choices.

Take this quiz about drug facts with your child.

Set clear rules for your child.
Not wanting to upset their parents is the number one reason kids give for not using drugs. Your child will be less tempted to use tobacco, alcohol, and drugs if you explain your rules clearly.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you talk to your child:

Help your child learn how to say “no.”
Kids say that they use alcohol and other drugs to “fit in and belong” with other kids. That’s why it’s important for parents to help children build the confidence to make a healthy choice when someone offers tobacco, drugs, or alcohol.  Find tips for preventing drug use at every age. External Links Disclaimer Logo

Check out these strategies to help you talk with your kids about staying healthy and drug free.

Set a good example.

What if I’ve used drugs in the past?
Be honest with your child, but don’t give a lot of details. Use these tips to talk about your past drug use.

Get help if you need it.
If you think your child may have a drug or alcohol problem, get help. Don’t wait. Getting treatment early can make a difference.  Follow these steps if you think your child is using drugs or alcohol. External Links Disclaimer Logo

What about cost?
Drug and alcohol assessments for teens are covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Depending on your insurance plan, your child may be able to get an assessment at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services for children that are covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

Start Today: Small Steps

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