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Educating Your Child on the Dangers of Addiction & Drug/Alcohol Abuse

You want the best for your child, but sometimes it comes with having a couple of tough conversations while growing up. One of these conversations includes the topic of drugs and alcohol and their effects.

At some point in their life, your child will need to face these issues on their own. But with the advice and guidance you provide to them, you can gift them the ability to make strong decisions about their lives. 

Today, we’re going to look at some things you should keep in mind when you approach the topic of drugs and alcohol with your child to help ensure they’re supported for any questions they may have.

Talk About It Before They Are Exposed to Drugs & Alcohol

When it comes to talking about drugs and alcohol, one of the first things you should keep in mind is to start talking about it early. Most children have an idea of what substance use is by age 9.

The good news is that you have most likely mentioned the risks of drug and alcohol abuse during their childhood but may not have noticed it. Whenever you give your child any medications, you likely have a conversation about why it is not good to take these substances without your parent’s supervision and permission. The conversation about drugs and alcohol, especially between the ages of 4 and 7, will likely be similar. 

There is no possible way to protect your child from these substances completely, but with your input, they will be better prepared to make the decision best for them.

Talk About This More Than Once

This conversation is not a one-time event; you will likely need to talk about drugs and alcohol a couple of times throughout your child’s life. The main reason for this is that children will be exposed to drugs and alcohol more often as they grow up, especially as they become teenagers and enter junior high and high school.

It is important to make sure your child has the opportunity to speak their minds about the subject. If your child is argumentative, this might not mean they are rejecting your advice; according to the Government of Canada website, your child asserting their independence is one way to actually build a “stronger and more positive relationship with you.

Lead By Example

You are your child’s first role model and influencer. Because of this, you need to be aware that the actions and attitudes you represent will be reflected in some way in your child. Now, this does not mean that you have to avoid the responsible consumption of these substances, but it does mean that your child will reflect the same values you have.

Talking about drugs and alcohol is about honesty and support.

Understand the Expectations & Pressures They Have While Growing Up

One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to understand your child’s position in life; we were all kids too, and the problems you had as a child may be very similar to the issues your child is experiencing today. While this is not a complete list, some of the most common factors children face include:

  • Peer pressure
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of friends or community
  • Family conflict

Some of these issues could lead your child to experiment with drugs and alcohol, but by coming from a place of love and understanding, you can help build the emotional foundation they need to make the best decisions for themselves. You can start by:

  • Nurturing your child’s confidence and intelligence
  • Providing them with a safe environment for them to be open and honest
  • Making sure they have support from their community (this can take the form of extra-curricular activities like sports, clubs, and group events your child regularly attends)

If your child is experiencing substance abuse, it is important not to immediately go to a place of blame, but to explore support so you do not feel alone. 

Be Honest

Talking about the risks of drug and alcohol abuse can be a heavy subject to discuss, and being honest is paramount to having it. Share your views and stories and create an environment where your child will be more comfortable to talk about this subject. 

They may not want to discuss it at first, but over time they will start to develop their own questions and curiosities, and it is best that they feel comfortable coming to you for answers rather than getting them from friends or the internet.

Other Tips to Remember

These tips are provided by Health Canada. If you have specific questions or concerns you would like to discuss before speak to your child, you may contact us for more information. We can also provide family counselling services to help aid families in need of help.

Some things to keep in mind when speaking to your child about substance abuse include:

  • Not being afraid to set rules and boundaries where you see fit.
  • Staying honest so your child continues to trust and value your input.
  • Talking about this subject regularly. It is better to have many smaller conversations than one big one.
  • Finding “teachable moments” where the conversation can come up naturally.
  • Keeping the conversation going both ways. The more you value your child’s views and opinions, the more likely they are going to respect yours.


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  • Chris Sciberras

    Written by Chris Sciberras

    Director of Program and Mental Health Clinician Chris is a Registered Provisional Psychologist with a Masters of Counselling from the University of Calgary and a Bachelors of Counselling from the Australian College of Applied Psychology. For the past decade, he has worked extensively with youth, adults, and families in a variety of capacities, with a focus on mental well-being and addiction recovery. Chris has served as the Mental Health Clinician and Program Director at the Calgary Dream Centre since 2017. Prior to joining the Dream Centre, Chris worked in the school system as a Mental Health Counsellor. Chris is passionate about supporting clients at the Dream Centre and helping them along their path of recovery. Chris is originally from Australia, has travelled to over 30 countries, and now happily calls Calgary home.

    More Articles by Chris Sciberras

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