Over 80 percent of young people ages 10–18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision whether to drink. Send a clear and strong message that you disapprove of underage drinking and misuse of other drugs.
— Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

When it comes to youth drug prevention, parents make a difference. Teens who believe that their parents will respond negatively to their drug use are less likely to use alcohol, nicotine, marijuana and other drugs. While other factors, like peers who use drugs, can influence a teen’s decisions, parent expectations of drug use and enforcement of drug-free rules significantly reduce teen drug use. Teens with parents that clearly express and enforce the no drug use rule are less likely to have friends that use drugs and are more confidently able to refuse alcohol and other drugs. Talk to your children about drugs, making sure that they know that no drug use is acceptable.

The US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests the following strategies for helping your kids avoid drugs:

  1. Communication: Communicating calmly and clearly about issues in the teen’s life helps parents and teens develop healthy relationships and promotes positive behavior.

  2. Encouragement: It is important for parents to encourage and celebrate good behaviors and accomplishments. This gives teens the confidence to try new things, develop new friendships, and tackle difficult tasks

  3. Negotiation: Learning to cooperate with your teen and work together to solve issues helps teens learn healthy ways of dealing with adversity and difficult situations

  4. Setting limits: Parents teach their teens self-control and responsibility by setting and enforcing household rules such as no drug or alcohol use.

  5. Supervision: Parents who monitor their teen’s behaviors are more able to identify and address problems that arise in the child’s life including pressure to use drugs and current use.

As parents you can help your teen make One Choice. Share the science of the developing brain and the fact that many teens are making One Choice to not use any alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or other drugs.

Expanding on some of the strategies above, the Addiction Policy Forum has produced a toolkit, How Do you Really Keep Your Kids Safe From Addiction? 10 Things Parents Can Do and following related video:

Parents of tertiary Students

College Parents Matter is a website of the US-based Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems that provides communication strategies for parents of college students to talk about alcohol and other drug use:

7 Tips for Good Conversation

1. Don’t be afraid to start the conversation. 

2. As a family member, you are allowed to disapprove of drinking. Give yourself permission to disapprove.

3. Banish any fear that your disapproval is naïve.

4. Focus on one message during the conversation. 

5. Reject the myth that discouraging drinking is useless because everyone is doing it.

6. Make communication a regular activity.

7. Recognize the power of your influence.

College Parents Matter also answers frequently asked questions. For example:

Can I teach my child to drink responsibly?

“It turns out that the best predictor of how much a student will drink during college is how much they drank during high school, and that goes for non-drinkers as well. Unfortunately, this evidence flies in the face of the popular misconception that turning alcohol into a "forbidden fruit" only heightens a student’s appetite for it. Everyone seems to know someone whose drinking “exploded when they got to college and escaped their family's strict controls”--but those cases are largely inaccurate.

Condoning or encouraging underage drinking--even in the safety of your own home--only increases the likelihood that a student will drink that much more when they are away from their families. On average, and over time, students who do not drink during high school will have a lower chance of drinking excessively or developing problems during college.”


Back to Top ↑