How to Prevent Your Child from Drinking and Drugging: Topics to Discuss With Your Children
About Drugs and Alcohol: Part 2
Dear 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 childrens feelings, 3.) Acknowledge rather
than judge their contribution.
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 forumsmovies, magazines,
books, television, internet, music videos, your own personal bar at home, and your
medicine cabinet are but a few sources. Your childs 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.
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 familys value system about drugs and alcohol? Do your children know
what your familys value system about alcohol and other drugs is? Is the adults
behavior congruent or incongruent with your family value system? When there is behavior
that is incongruent with your familys 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.
to Your Children About Friendship
Your children can benefit from discussing friendshipwhat 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.
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.
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.
Ask questions. Learn to assess a situation. What are the potential dangers? Know the
specifics of what your friends may intend. Dont walk into a situation that you
dont know what is going to happen. For example, a friend may say to your
child, Lets go to my house. My parents arent going to be homethe
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
the trouble. After having evaluated the situation that youre child is being
asked to walk into, say out loud the potential problem(s) that he can see with what is
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 dont want him to. My parents wont let me out of the house
for a week if I did that and they found out, or What youre suggesting
could get me dismissed from then football team.
an alternative. Having determined that the dangerousness of the situation, suggest an
alternative to what is being suggested such as Lets go to the gym and shoot
baskets. If your childs friend persists, your child should just walk
Getting out of trouble. Should you find yourself in a problem situation, get out
immediately and call a responsible adult for help.
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 childs friends attempts to persuade your child to drink
them to generate a series of responses such as: 1.) No, 2.) No,
lets go to the park and play toss, 3.) No, thats 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.
your children these six ways to say, No.
2.) I dont feel like itdo you have any soda?
3.) Alcohols not my thing.
4.) Are you talking to me? Forget it.
5.) Why do you keep pressuring me when Ive said No?
6.) Back off!
your childrens 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.
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
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.
1.) Read Dr. Steve Frischs, 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
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
Entering the World of Your Child: How to Nurture Your Childs Spirit by Dr.
Steve Frisch, Psy.D.
7.) Read A Parents
Guide for Protecting Their Children From Alcohol and Other Drugs by Dr. Steve Frisch,
8.) Read But Im 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.
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. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery
Insanity to Serenity.