Grade K-3

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Make sure your child knows your rules - and that you'll enforce the consequences if rules are broken.

Kids are less likely to use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs if their parents have established a pattern of setting clear rules and consequences for breaking those rules. This applies to no-use rules about tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs — as well as bedtimes and homework. Have clear expectations for behavior, monitor your child, and implement appropriate consequences. In setting these rules, be sure you discuss your rules and expectations in advance and follow through with the consequences you’ve set.

Don’t forget to acknowledge times when your child follows the rules! Parents who have a warm relationship with their children while maintaining rules for behavior are teaching their children self-discipline. Parents who have rules that are too harsh or no rules at all are more likely to have children who are at greater risk for drug-taking behavior.

If you use tobacco or alcohol, be mindful of the message you are sending to your children. We may unknowingly be relaying a message that we don't want. Avoid giving your child sips of alcohol, asking them to grab you a beer from the fridge, taking your child with you into a bar or liquor store, or asking them to pass your cigarettes. By avoiding these behaviors, you reinforce your message that alcohol and tobacco are not for children and they are dangerous for growing bodies. Take a Closer Look at how you model alcohol use to your children.

I'd rather ________ than do drugs! Help your child fill in the blank:

Research shows that when youth are engaged in healthy activities, they are less likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs. Being involved in and having a passion for something fosters skills such as communication, relationship-building, self-control, and problem solving (among others).

When youth have something they enjoy, look forward to, and are proud of, they are less likely to turn to drugs and alcohol. Encourage your child to find their passion and to "live their no". Ask them what their interests are and do what you can to encourage and support these interests.

Act out scenes with your child where people offer them drugs.

It is not uncommon for sixth graders to be offered alcohol or cigarettes or know other children who have tried them. Make sure your child is well-versed in the reasons to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Continue to practice ways to say "no" with your child because kids who don't know what to say or how to get away are more likely to give in to peer pressure. Here are some ways your child can say "no"...

  • "How about we go to my place and watch a movie?"
  • "No, I have a basketball game tomorrow"
  • "I'm not feeling good and should go home"
  • "No thanks, I would be grounded for weeks"

Work through this crossword puzzle with your child to help teach them refusal skills.

Explain why he or she shouldn't continue friendships with kids who have offered them cigarettes, alcohol or other drugs.

Your child tells you he was offered prescription drugs by a classmate — but said no.

What to Say
After praising your child for making a good choice and for telling you about it, let him know that he can always come to you.

Tell your child what makes him so special.

Puberty can be a very confusing time for boys and girls. Girls may lose self-confidence and self-worth and be more vulnerable to negative outside influences and mixed messages about risky behaviors. Boys tend to experience mood swings, have feeling of anxiety, and explore things associated with being grown up. Puberty can upend a child's self-esteem and produce feelings of insecurity, doubt and pressure. Therefore, it is important that you offset those feelings with a lot of positive comments and self-esteem boosts about their life and who s/he is as an individual (and not just when he brings home an A).

Give your children the power to make decisions that go against their peers.

Wanting to fit in, to belong, is a natural part of growing up therefore, the opinions of friends are rapidly becoming very important (perhaps more important than their parent's opinions). Children at this age should not only be taught to respect the feelings of their peers but to be responsible for their actions and to expect responsible behavior from their friends and peers. It is important to discuss with your child how to make good choices in the company of friends, say "no" to peer pressure, and discuss the importance of thinking and acting as an individual. You can reinforce this message through small things such as encouraging your child to pick out the sneakers he likes rather than the pair his four friends have.

Get to know your child's friends - and their friends' parents.

An advantage to getting to know the parents of your child's friends is that you will know the kind of people that are influencing your child. Also, by getting to know the parents, you can verify your child's statements when he or she says, "All my friends get to do it." Most importantly, connecting with the families of your child's friend will help form a safety net for your child because you can help supervise each other's children and look out for their safety. It is common in small towns for everyone to know everyone even through generations! Here are several ways you meet other families: set play-dates, arrange to share driving with other parents for after-school activities, volunteer at your child's school, join PTA, attend faith-based activities, attend sporting events or other social gatherings, etc.

Help your child find a peer group and after-school activities.

Children as young as eleven or twelve years old can be strongly influenced by the behavior of their peers. Take steps to direct your child toward the right kinds of peer groups from the start so your child will form friendships with other children in those groups. Your child will have a sense of belonging and will avoid groups that use alcohol or drugs. You can further encourage your child’s social life by helping them become involved in activities with other children who share the same interest. Structured after-school programs such as sports, scouts, 4H, music, dance, or faith-based activities will provide your child an opportunity to meet other children with similar interest and gain self-confidence by developing skills and talents. It will also give your child something constructive to do after school because the hours after school are often times when children first experiment with drugs, especially if they are unsupervised.

Create a "helpers" file of trusted adults your child can rely on.

It is important your child know which adults, both at school and outside, they can rely on for answers to questions or help in emergencies. Create a phone list for your child of relatives, family friends, neighbors, teachers, religious leaders, and the police and fire departments. Talk with your child about the kind of help each person on the list could provide in case an unexpected situation arises and they need help (e.g., being approached by a "stranger").

Give your kids the power to escape from situations that make them feel uncomfortable.

Teach your child to trust their instincts or intuition (e.g., if something feels bad, it probably is). Make sure you child knows that they shouldn't stay in a place that makes them feel uncomfortable or bad about themselves. Also, let them know that they don't need to stick with friends who don't support them. Practice ways to say "no" with your child and help them come up with ways to avoid uncomfortable situations. Go over scenarios or possible situations ahead of time (e.g., asked to ride bike where they know they shouldn't or being offered unfamiliar substances, or "dared" to do something embarrassing or dangerous) and give your child some responses to use in these situations so they will be prepared to handle those situations with confidence.

Your child has expressed curiosity about the pills she sees you take every day - and the other bottles in the medicine cabinet.

What to Say
Just because it's in a family's medicine cabinet doesn’t mean that it is safe for you to take. Even if your friends say it's okay, say, "No, my parents won't let me take something that doesn't have my name on the bottle."

I'd rather ________ than do drugs! Help your child fill in the blank:

Research shows that when youth are engaged in healthy activities they are less likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs. Being involved in and having a passion for something fosters skills such as communication, relationship-building, self-control, and problem solving (among others). As these skills join forces, they create a healthy, strong, and self-confident individual. When youth have something they enjoy, look forward to, and are proud of, they are less likely to turn to drugs and alcohol. Encourage your child to find their passion to "live their no." Ask them what their interests are and do what you can to encourage and support these interests.