Talking to Children at an Early Age About Drugs

Potty Training? Check.

ABC’s? Check.

Educating your toddler about the dangers of substance abuse?


While it may not seem the most natural thing to talk to your five year old child about, the topics of drugs and substance abuse is definitely not one to ignore. Early education on these topics are critical to ensuring children are equipped to make healthy choices about substance abuse as they develop.


In fact, if you’re not talking to your children about drugs, chances are that they will be seeing or hearing about them from somebody or something else. Research suggests that children have already acquired knowledge regarding alcohol and cigarettes by age 3. Even if children do not grow up in a household where substance use is present, exposure to life beyond their families will more often than not provide more opportunities for them to learn about drugs. Think about the many references that have been made to smoking even in Disney movies like Alice in Wonderland or 101 Dalmatians!


Although it may seem difficult to talk to young children about drugs, there are many ways to begin simple conversations with them that can teach invaluable lessons. For example, talk to them about common household products that are poisonous or harmful to people if used inappropriately such as bleach or prescription medicine. Explain what might happen to them if they eat or drink these products and let them know that they should only take things that are given to them from you or other caregivers.  If you and your child do happen to see some sort of drug use, whether it be on a television show or billboard, take advantage of the opportunity to talk about how it can harm someone if they use it.These types of conversations are never too early to have because they give children the ability to understand the things around them better.


In addition, think about the ways you are already preparing your child to protect themselves from getting caught up in substance abuse. What are the some of the things that you do reinforce attitudes, behaviors, and skills that allow your children to be responsible for their own health? Although you may not realize it, simple gestures such as letting your children pick their own clothes allow them to practice independent decision making skills that will be important later on when they encounter drug-related situations.


By making it a point to talk to your children about substance abuse early on, you can provide the foundation for them to protect themselves from the dangers of substance abuse even into their adult years. So when thinking about the milestones that your child still has yet to achieve, don’t forget to include a little teaching on “why drugs are not for me” with their ABC’s!


(From The 3Waves Spring 2015 Issue)

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