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How to Talk to Kids About Drugs and Alcohol

Posted: April 4, 2024
We live in a culture where alcohol and drugs are prevalent.  The news covers stories of delta products, fentanyl, opioids, vaping, binge drinking, etc. We have seen too many stories of how alcohol and drugs can change a young person’s life for the worse.  Whether you are a parent, grandparent, family member, or neighbor; we need to continually educate ourselves to help prevent substance misuse in our homes.  But where do you go for the right information?  We read the headlines, we see social media posts, we hear stories from friends and families, but what are the truths?  And how do we keep our kids safe? It is important for us to think about the accessibility and availability of drugs – which does include alcohol, vaping and prescription drugs. 
Sometimes it is difficult to know how to talk to our kids about alcohol and drugs because of our own experiences or lack of knowledge because of how quickly new products become available.  We need to keep in mind the safety and well-being our children.  We need to send the message that we are aware of the pressures around them, and that it’s ok for them to talk to a trusted adult about it.    

So what’s going on in our community of Watertown?  What are the current trends we are seeing with our young people?  Who or what is influencing our kids? And how do we talk to our kids about it?
Unfortunately, there is no textbook answer.  That is the challenge.  What we know from our own experiences is so different than what our kids are experiencing now.  That is why it is so important for us adults to know the truth, and to know where to go for information and resources so we can be someone our kids will turn to when they are faced with challenges. We are role models for our kids, and our views on alcohol, vaping, and drugs can strongly influence how they think about them. Talking about drugs in regards to general health and safety is important.  Admit it when you're stumped. It is easy to be caught off guard by a question from our child that we are unsure how to answer. Rather than stumble through an awkward and incorrect response, it is better for us to acknowledge that we don't know the answer and promise that we will look for information, or look it up together and talk about it again later. 

There are many resources and services available within our community,, and if there is a time when someone needs help, we want you to know what you can do.  While some teens misuse substances to party or to “fit in”, many are using to cope with academic, social or emotional stress or regulate their lives. Many students are stressed out from academic and social pressures. Many know the consequences and know it is illegal for them, so why do they use?  The teen brain is not fully developed.  Teens are wired to be impulsive, curious, and risk-takers.  So we need to direct all of that to positive outlets.  Coming to rely on substances to “manage” your life is not a healthy coping skill and could lead to dependency.
We need to communicate the risks of substance use such as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. 
  • Talk to your child about the dangers of drinking and using drugs, including abusing prescription drugs not prescribed to him or her.
  • Remind him or her that it’s okay to ask for help – whether for academics, stress or mental health.
  • Ensure your teen or young adult knows that they are valued for who they are, not what they achieve.
  • Prepare him or her with alternative coping skills such as breathing techniques, mindfulness and other tools to help him or her relax and redirect their thoughts when they are feeling anxious.
Information for this article came from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids For additional resources or information, contact the NE Prevention Resource Center at 605-884-3518 or visit  Like us on Facebook  to stay informed.