Parent's Guide

(Management & Control)

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6. Talking with and Listening to Your Child

Many parents hesitate to discuss alcohol and other drug use with their child. Some of us believe that our children couldn’t become involved with illegal substances. Others delay because we don’t know what to say or how to say it, or we are afraid of putting ideas into our children’s heads.

Don’t wait until you think your child has a problem. Many young people in treatment programs say that they had used alcohol and other drugs for at least two years before their parents knew about it. Begin early to talk about alcohol and other drugs, and keep the lines of communication open.

Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have all the answers. Let your child know that you are concerned, and that you can work together to find answers. Some references that may help are listed on pages 44-58 of this guide.

Here are some basic hints for improving your ability to talk with your child about alcohol and other drugs:

  • Be a good listener
    Make sure your child feels comfortable bringing problems or questions to you. Listen closely to what your child says. Don’t allow anger at what you hear to end the discussion. If necessary, take a break to calm down before continuing. Take note of what your child is not saying, too. If the child does not tell you about his or her problems, take the initiative and ask questions about what is going on at school or in other activities.

    Be available to discuss even sensitive subjects. Young people need to know that they can rely on their parents for accurate information about subjects that are important to them. If your child wants to discuss something at a time when you can’t give it your full attention, explain why you can’t talk, set a time to talk later, and then carry through on it!

  • Give lots of praise
    Emphasize the things your youngster is doing right instead of always focusing on things that are wrong. When parents are quicker to praise than to criticize, children learn to feel good about themselves, and they develop the self-confidence to trust their own judgment.

  • Give clear messages
    When talking about the use of alcohol and other drugs, be sure you give your child a clear no-use message, so that the child will know exactly what is expected. For example, “In our family we don’t allow the use of illegal drugs, and children are not allowed to drink.”

  • Model good behavior
    Children learn by example as well as teaching. Make sure that your own actions reflect the standards of honesty, integrity, and fair play that you expect of your child.


For more information on talking to your kids, please visit

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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 :