Parent's Guide

(Management & Control)

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11. Grades 7-9

During the early teens “fitting in” with friends is a controlling influence. In some ways, the onset of puberty is like a “rebirth”. Children want and need to let go of the past and to find their own unique identity. This often means letting go of old friendships and ties with teachers and other adults, as well as old ways of doing things. The decision-making and problem-solving methods that they learned as young children are still helpful, but young teens will be making new decisions based on new information and new goals.

Young people this age can begin to deal with abstractions and the future. They understand that their actions have consequences, and they know how their behavior affects others. They sometimes have a shaky self-image: they are not sure whether they are growing and changing adequately, they are often in conflict with adults, they are not sure where they are headed, and they tend to see themselves as not “okay”. Strong emotional support and a good model of adult behavior are particularly important now.

Young people who use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs typically begin before leaving the ninth grade. Be sure that family discussions about drugs emphasize the immediate, unpleasant effects of alcohol and other drug use. Telling junior high school students who are smoking that they will get lung cancer or heart disease in several decades is less likely to make an impression than talking about bad breath, stained teeth and fingers, and burned clothing.

Many young people use drugs because their friends use drugs. A large portion of your prevention efforts during these years should be spent reinforcing your child’s motivation to avoid alcohol and other drugs.

Here are some important steps:

  • Counteract peer influence with parent influence. Reinforce your no-alcohol/no-drug-use rules and expectations so that your child clearly understands that drinking and using drugs are unacceptable and illegal. Children may argue that “everyone is doing it, and not experiencing any harmful effects”. Inform your child that alcohol and other drug use is illegal for children and that “everyone is not doing it”. Emphasize how unpredictable the effects of alcohol and other drugs can be, so that although many drug users may appear to function properly, drug use is extremely risky, and all it takes is one bad experience to change a life.

  • Get to know your child’s friends and their parents Meet your child’s friends. Invite them to your home frequently. Share your expectations about behavior with other parents. Work together to develop a set of rules about curfews, unchaperoned parties, and other social activities.

  • Monitor your child’s whereabouts. If your child is at “a friend’s house” be sure that you know the friend and the parents. If your child is at the movies, be sure you know what film is playing and at which theatre. Last-minute changes in plans, such as visiting a different friend or going to a different movie, should not be permitted unless the child checks with Mom, Dad, or another designated adult.

By the end of the ninth grade your child should know:

  • the characteristics and chemical nature of specific drugs and drug interactions;

  • the physiology of drug effects on the circulatory, respiratory, nervous, and reproductive systems;

  • the stages of chemical dependency and their unpredictability from person to person;

  • the ways that drug-use affects activities requiring motor coordination, such as driving a car or participating in sports;

  • his or her family history, particularly if alcoholism or other drug addiction has been a problem.


Suggested Activities

  • Continue to practice ways to say no with your child. Teach your child to recognize problem situations, such as being at a house where no adults are present and young people are smoking or drinking beer. Devise situations in which your child may be asked to try alcohol and other drugs and let the child practice saying no using the steps outlined. Try many variations until you are confident that your child knows how to say no.

  • Children this age are very concerned about how others see them. You can help your child develop a positive self-image by making sure that the child looks good and feels healthy. In addition to providing well-balanced meals, keep your refrigerator and pantry stocked with appealing alternatives to junk food.

  • Continue to spend private time with your child to discuss what your child feels is important in his or her life right now.

    Your child’s fears about emerging sexuality, appearing different from friends, and going on to high school are real problems and deserve your concern and attention.

  • Periodically review and update, with your child's participation, your house rules and your child's responsibilities regarding chores, homework, time limit on TV watching, and the curfew on school and weekend nights, discussing these questions with your child: Are the rules fair and the consequences appropriate? Is it time to switch to some new chores? Should there be fewer or different chores because of added homework assignments or after-school activities? Should the curfew be adjusted?

  • Talk with your child about friendship. Make the point that true friends do not ask each other to do things they know are wrong and risk harm to themselves, their friends, or their families.

  • Plan supervised parties or other activities for your child in your home which reflect a no-alcohol/no-drug-use rule. For example, have your child invite friends to share a pizza and watch TV.
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Did you know...

Drugs Desciptions and Effects

Select a drug from the drop down menu to get more information from National Institute on Drug Abuse at :