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Healthy You

How to Talk To Your Kids about Drugs and Alcohol

Monday, October 23, 2017 8:22 AM

National Red Ribbon Week isn’t about the wacky hair day, wear red or the decorations. Red Ribbon Week is an opportunity to talk to kids about drugs and alcohol, and present them with the right facts from the beginning.


Laura Parise MD, Doreen E. Chapman Center at NorthShore, understands this can be a difficult topic. It might help to consider that it’s not one 60-minute conversation; it’s 60 one-minute conversations. Here are some tips to kick start some of these mini-conversations:

  1. Find moments to talk. Have discussions during a family dinner, sitting on the couch together or pulling into school at the drop-off line. Hearing the message often coveys that you really care about their health and safety.
  2. Ask them about what they know. Try asking what their classmates think about alcohol and other drugs. It may be easier for them to open up talking about someone else and then share their thoughts with you.
  3. Teach them how to say no. Brainstorm different ways to say “no” such as walking away, suggesting another activity, or giving a reason like “I don’t want to get in trouble” or “I want to stay focused for a test.”
  4. Practice saying no. While it may feel silly for the two of you, it is important to role-play. Walk through these situations and explain the potential consequences of their actions.
  5. Get them involved. Encourage kids to join extracurricular activities to stay busy and involved. It’s easier for your child to move towards something fun than away from something risky.
  6. Offer an out. If they are ever in an uncomfortable position where there are drugs and alcohol involved, let them know they can call you to be picked up no questions asked. If not you, suggest other adults or older siblings they trust.

Dr. Parise and Barbara de Nekker, Executive Director of Community - The Anti-Drug Coalition, recommend having these conversations regularly to further help drive home the message. If you are having a hard time talking to your children, ask their physician for assistance.