How to Teach Kids About Substance Abuse

By Kathryn Hatter
A close relationship with your kids can help them resist substance abuse.
A close relationship with your kids can help them resist substance abuse.

Kids in current society have access to tobacco, drugs and alcohol, so the fight against substance abuse must start early. As a parent, you play a significant role in the decisions your child makes regarding tobacco, drugs and alcohol. While your involvement and guidance regarding substance abuse won’t guarantee that your child won’t use these dangerous substances, you can tip the scale in favor of safe and wise decision-making on the part of your child.

Discuss drugs and alcohol from an early age -- as young as 5 years old, advises the Teen Challenge of Southern California website. Tell your child that some people use these substances but that they can hurt the body and make people sick.

Explain the difference between eating and drinking beneficial foods and drinks and consuming substances that harm the body. Provide examples of good foods and drinks, such as grapes, green beans, a chicken leg and a granola bar. Provide examples of harmful substances, such as cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. If you have a preteen or teenage youngster, name specific substances she might run into, such as marijuana or heroin.

Talk about the allure of using substances to prepare your child for this reality. Mention that substances can seem glamorous, especially as the media portrays them, warns the Caron Treatment Center website. Explain to your child that drugs and alcohol create a physical effect in the body, altering moods, coordination and personality. Explain that some people choose to use substances to enhance or improve their moods and sense of well-being.

Mention the dangers of substance abuse. Explain that with the chemical change in a person’s body, the person loses the ability to make safe decisions and solve problems effectively, according to the Addiction411 website. With repeated substance abuse, a person could become dependent on the substance and begin to feel a strong emotional and physical need for the substance.

Warn your child about other risks associated with substance abuse. These risks occur due to a person’s diminished capacity for making wise decisions. Some risks include overdose, accidents, drowning, pregnancy and trouble with the law. Other health risks associated with long-term substance abuse include cancer, cirrhosis, vitamin deficiencies, heart and central nervous system damage and impotence.

Explore peer pressure with your child to prepare her for this situation. Warn your child that it’s likely she will experience pressure from peers to use dangerous substances. Tell her that she has the power to say “no” to pressure from friends to use substances. Instill the idea that resisting peer pressure helps her stay true to herself and take care of herself, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics' website.

Ask your child to come to you if she has questions, concerns or problems with tobacco, drugs or alcohol. Promise your youngster that you will offer support and guidance in a positive manner to help her resist peer pressure and substances.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.