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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.

How to Prevent Your Child from Drinking and Drugging: Topics to Discuss With Your Children About Drugs and Alcohol: Part 2

ear Dr. Steve:

I was raised in a family in which my father was an active alcoholic and my mother abused prescription pills. Both my brother and myself grew up to become alcoholics. Thankfully, I discovered A.A. and Recovery five years ago. I am determined to raise my children differently than I was raised. I know first hand the devastation of alcoholism and drug addiction. I know that denial, secrecy, and enabling are three dynamics that enable chemical dependency to remain active and wreak havoc in the lives of all family members. As I said, I am determined to make sure that my children, a son who is 13 and a daughter who is 12, are informed about drugs and alcohol, are taught how to make choices about drugs and alcohol, and feel empowered to not give in to peer pressure. Can you tell me how best to talk to my kids about drugs and alcohol?

Open and honest communication between you and your children can deter your children from getting involved with alcohol and other drugs. Conducting on-going discussions about alcohol and other drugs is a critical factor in immunizing your children from feeling alienated from their family, from giving into the demands of peer pressure, and making ill-informed risky choices.

What should the focus of your conversations about alcohol and other drugs be? Here are a few suggestions about how to talk about alcohol and other drugs and what to talk about:

Create a Physically and Emotionally Safe Environment in Which to Hold Your Discussions
First and foremost, create a safe environment to talk with your children. The most important aspect of creating an ongoing dialogue with your children is to make them feel safe. The best way to create a safe environment is to: 1.) Encourage them to articulate their beliefs rather than lecture them on what you want them to think and believe, 2.) Listen to rather than argue with your children’s feelings, 3.) Acknowledge rather than judge their contribution.

Clarify Attitudes About Alcohol and other Drugs
An important aspect of alcohol and other drug prevention is helping your children clarify their attitudes about alcohol and other drugs. Children are exposed to images and information about alcohol and other drugs in many different forums—movies, magazines, books, television, internet, music videos, your own personal bar at home, and your medicine cabinet are but a few sources. Your child’s exposure to these different sources has shaped their belief system and attitudes towards alcohol and other drugs. Undoubtedly, they have encountered mixed messages about the goodness and badness of alcohol and other drugs. Step number one is creating a dialogue that helps differentiate: 1.) Good drugs from bad drugs, 2.) Helpful use of drugs from destructive use of drugs, and 3.) Social use of alcohol from destructive use of alcohol. These are but a few ways that you can help your children clarify their beliefs and attitudes about alcohol and other drugs. The attitudes that you want your children to assume are: 1.) Alcohol is a drug, 2.) Drinking can lead to serious, even fatal consequences, 3.) Any consumption of alcohol by anyone under age 21 is unacceptable. Establish and communicate to your children clear policies and consequences concerning the use of alcohol and other drugs, and enforce them.

Reinforce the Family Values System About Alcohol and other Drugs
Use your conversations with your children to reinforce the family values system about alcohol and other drugs. Your family has many different values. There are values about: 1.) Truth telling, 2.) Education, 3.) Recreational activities, 4.) How children should act, 5.) How adults should act, and 6.) How information is and is not communicated. What is your family’s value system about drugs and alcohol? Do your children know what your family’s value system about alcohol and other drugs is? Is the adult’s behavior congruent or incongruent with your family value system? When there is behavior that is incongruent with your family’s value system are the transgressions acknowledged and talked about? Always encourage your children to ask questions when they are confused by behavior that they witness or hear about that is incongruent with your family value system.

Talk to Your Children About Friendship
Your children can benefit from discussing friendship—what it is and what qualities make a good friend. We all know how susceptible children are to the pressure of their peers. Talk to your children about what friendship is and how a good friend acts. What do you talk to your children about in regards to what makes a good friend? To a six year old, a friend is a playmate who is fun to be around. To a teenager, the concept is a little more complex. To a teenager a friend should be someone who shares similar values, respects their choices, honors their feelings, and engages in activities that are healthful, fun, and growth enhancing.

Empower Your Children by Teaching Them How to Make Choices
The power to choose is the power to say no. If a child is trained to make choices, they will be practiced and confident choice makers when they are confronted with the use of alcohol and other drugs. Make sure as part of your parenting style, that you teach your child how to make choices. Think about all of the choices that confront your child every day. Be sure that you allow your child to make as many choices for themselves as is age appropriate. The steady practice of making choices will be much more easily applied as your children get older and must make decisions about alcohol and other drugs.

Coping With Peer Pressure
Most teenagers are vulnerable to the pitfalls that can be created by their strong need to be accepted and fit-in. For those teenagers who are not involved in school activities, they may feel especially isolated and, as a result, extremely vulnerable to peer pressure. The need to be accepted combined with teenagers easy access to alcohol and other drugs combined with parental indifference makes for a potentially dangerous situation. If children are going to be able to resist the pressures of their peers, they need to learn specific skills. There is a standard model that you can teach your children about how to resist peer pressure. Introduce them to the model. Practice the model periodically. The following is the standard model for reversing peer pressure.

1.) Ask questions. Learn to assess a situation. What are the potential dangers? Know the specifics of what your friends may intend. Don’t walk into a situation that you don’t know what is going to happen. For example, a friend may say to your child, “Lets go to my house. My parents aren’t going to be home”—the friend may have drinking at home on his mind. To assess the situation ask questions. What are we going to do? Who else is going to be there? How long will we be there? These questions will help your child make informed decisions before getting into a problem situation.

2.) Name the trouble. After having evaluated the situation that you’re child is being asked to walk into, say out loud the potential problem(s) that he can see with what is being suggested.

3.) State the consequences. If your child is being asked to do something that is expressly against his wishes, he should state his understanding of the consequences attached to doing what you don’t want him to. “My parents won’t let me out of the house for a week if I did that and they found out,” or “What you’re suggesting could get me dismissed from then football team.

4.) Offer an alternative. Having determined that the dangerousness of the situation, suggest an alternative to what is being suggested such as “Let’s go to the gym and shoot baskets.” If your child’s friend persists, your child should just walk away.

5.) Getting out of trouble. Should you find yourself in a problem situation, get out immediately and call a responsible adult for help.

Practice Saying No
Help your children practice saying no to their friends. Teach your children strategies that enable them to remain autonomous, independent, and able to stick to their choices. Think of scenarios where your child is with his friends. Have your child practice responding to your child’s friends’ attempts to persuade your child to drink and/or drug.

Encourage them to generate a series of responses such as: 1.) “No,” 2.) “No, let’s go to the park and play toss,” 3.) “No, that’s not for me.” As they create responses that say no and/or no and offers another alternative, be sure to praise them for them choice.

Teach your children these six ways to say, “No.”

1.) No thanks.
2.) I don’t feel like it—do you have any soda?
3.) Alcohol’s not my thing.
4.) Are you talking to me? Forget it.
5.) Why do you keep pressuring me when I’ve said No?
6.) Back off!

Build your children’s self-esteem
Use your conversations as an opportunity to reinforce the goodness of who your children are. Reinforcement is most effective when you focus on who they are rather than what they do.

1.) Praise your child for who they are.
2.) If you need to criticize your children, criticize their behavior, not who they are.
3.) Never ask your children do to things that are not within the realm of their accomplishing.
4.) Your children need to spend one-on-one time with you. Make time every day to be with your children one-on-one.
5.) You can never tell your children enough that you love them.

Pathfinder’s Checklist
1.) Read Dr. Steve Frisch’s, Psy.D. series of Recovery books, From Insanity to Serenity. These books focus on chemical dependency, how to raise alcohol and other drugs free children, and Recovery for both the chemically dependent individual and their friends and family members.
2.) Read Fact Sheets about How to Raise an Alcohol and Drug-Free Child
3.) Read Fact Sheets about Information About Alcohol and Other Drugs
4.) Read the Fact Sheet, Referrals
5.) Read Fact Sheet, Warning Signs of Alcohol and Other Drugs Abuse
6.) Read Entering the World of Your Child: How to Nurture Your Child’s Spirit by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.
7.) Read A Parent’s Guide for Protecting Their Children From Alcohol and Other Drugs by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.
8.) Read But I’m Not The One With the Problem: How to Cope With a Loved One Who Abuses Alcohol and Other Drugs, by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.




Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series—From Insanity to Serenity.

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