Raising Drug-Free Kids

As a parent or guardian, our primary responsibility is to keep our children healthy and safe, and to help them navigate the increasingly complex world around them. One of the biggest dangers that can impact a child’s health and future is alcohol and drug use. Alcohol and drugs can endanger a child’s life, their relationships, future opportunities and prospects, and mental, emotional, and physical health.

While there is no guaranteed method of keeping children from using alcohol and drugs, parents can play an effective role in shaping their children’s decisions and reducing the likelihood of alcohol and drug use. By taking an active role in your children’s life, you can encourage healthy habits, open communication, and provide a safe and supportive environment that fosters a drug-free lifestyle. Here are some helpful tips that have been shown to be effective in helping parents/guardians raise drug-free children.

woman looking at son
Start early

Even though alcohol and drug use may not be relevant until the late adolescent and teenage years, early intervention and role modeling can prove to be effective. Provide your children with the right information at the right time about the dangers of alcohol and drug use, addiction, and the impact these have on their health and future. Build trust and establish a foundation for open communication so that your children can feel safe enough to share their experiences without fear of judgment, reprimand, or punishment.

father speaking with son on a bench outside
Establish rules and boundaries

Children need structure and clear expectations when it comes to rules, boundaries, and consequences. Discuss your expectations and rules explicitly with your children, and ensure that your children understand why certain behaviors are unwanted. Set up clear limits on after-school activities, curfews, and household rules. Consistency is key to establishing a routine that helps children feel secure in knowing that alcohol and drug use is not acceptable, whether in or outside the family household.

Be a role model

Modeling appropriate behavior is essential to raising alcohol-free and drug-free children. If you use drugs outside of prescription, stop. If you do drink alcohol, limit how often in front of your children and emphasize the drinking age. Children need a consistent message that alcohol use under the age of 21, and any drug use outside of that prescribed by a medical professional, is unacceptable, and in order to achieve this, you must lead by example. Keep track of your own habits, be responsible, and set realistic goals for yourself. Children often mimic their parents’ actions, so display and discuss with your children appropriate methods of dealing with stress and anxiety, such as exercise, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques.

woman on computer
Educate yourself on drug trends

Alcohol and drug trends are continually changing, and it’s important to stay informed about new drugs or alcoholic beverages that might hit the market and their dangers. Understand the warning signs of alcohol and drug abuse and addiction, and learn how to talk to your children if you suspect they are using alcohol or drugs. Familiarize yourself with common terminology so that you can detect when your child is talking about alcohol or drug use or encountering it online or through other media.

Encourage healthy activities

Physical activity, sports, and other healthy activities can provide an outlet for children to release stress and anxiety. Encourage and support their interests, promote physical exercise and healthy eating, and discourage excessive use of digital media, TV, and gaming. Engage in activities that promote bonding, such as family dinners, movie nights, and other rituals that strengthen the family unit.

woman with daughter picking grapes

Get involved in their life

Getting involved in your children’s lives is essential to understanding their world and the challenges and stresses they face. Attend parent-teacher conferences, stay active in their social life, and take an active interest in their hobbies and interests. Talking to your children daily will provide you with a critical window into the challenges they are facing in school, with friends, or in other areas of their life.

Keep the lines of communication open

Open communication is essential to building trust and keeping your children safe. Encourage your children to communicate with you about anything and everything, no matter how sensitive or uncomfortable it may be. Foster deep listening by providing a non-judgmental approach that allows your children to feel comfortable expressing their feelings. Resist condemnation, reprimanding or consequential actions when listening to your children open up about their feelings, challenges, or anxieties. While some action may need to be taken based on the information shared, at the time your child is revealing sensitive and private information, you should be understanding and supportive.

parent watching son while using the computer

Monitor their online activity

The internet and social media can expose children to a wide range of harmful content. Monitor their internet activities and social media interactions, and discuss the dangers of revealing personal information online and the dangers of the online drug culture. Based on the age of your children, set up age-appropriate parental controls and limit their access to certain websites and online content, and encourage them to talk to you if they come across anything suspicious or harmful.

Discuss peer pressure

Peer pressure is one of the leading factors that can lead to alcohol and drug use. Discuss how to deal with peer pressure and the importance of standing up to bullying and negative influences. Discuss the consequences of alcohol and drug use and how to avoid risky situations while still maintaining a social life.

Stay actively involved

As children grow, they will encounter new challenges, and new phases of life will bring new risks. Staying actively involved and providing a stable and supportive environment will help them navigate the challenges that lie ahead.

Preventing alcohol and drug use in children is critical for their future health and success. As a parent/guardian, you play a crucial role in helping shape your children’s decisions and reducing the likelihood of alcohol and drug use. Start early, establish rules and boundaries, be a role model, educate yourself on drug trends, encourage healthy activities, get involved in their life, keep the lines of communication open, monitor their online activity, discuss peer pressure, and stay actively involved. Incorporating these strategies into your relationship and interactions with your children will help maximize the probability that they will grow up healthy, strong, and alcohol and drug-free.