Even though infants and toddlers are not yet ready to learn complex facts about alcohol and other drugs, there are still several things you can do at this age to help prevent the likelihood of your child drinking, smoking, or using drugs later on.
At this age, the focus is on creating a healthy beginning and fostering positive social, emotional, and moral development that will extend through your child’s lifespan. According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, effective prevention focuses on intervening early in a child’s development before problems develop.
There are many factors that contribute to an individual’s risk for substance abuse. For example, a lack of self-control or lack of attachment with at least one adult may make one more susceptible to alcohol and drug use later. On the other hand, there are many protective factors that reduce the risk of substance abuse in the later years. These include a strong parent-child bond, clear expectations, limits and consistent discipline, an authoritative parenting style (Find out what your parenting style is!), parent involvement, trusting support systems, effective communication between parent and child, and so forth.
Keys to prevention at this age: Building a strong parent-child bond and role modeling healthy behaviors at home; creating a sense of safety and security for your child.
During the infant/toddler years, all children depend on responsive, secure relationships to develop and learn. At this age, your child learns about the world though touching, manipulating, looking, and listening.
Below are some key developmental characteristics:
Starting to recognize relationships between objects
At about 2 years of age, a toddler's learning process is becoming more thoughtful, where s/he is starting to understand relationships between objects (e.g., matching similar shapes, begins to recognize some purpose in numbers by counting objects, and develops an early understanding of cause and effect (e.g., turning a light switch on and off).
Concrete thinking and confusion between fantasy and reality
Reasoning at this age is concrete or literal (i.e., viewing everything in simple terms) and rather limited. Toddlers often confuse fantasy with reality unless s/he is actively engaged in "make-believe" play. A toddler may interpret comments such as, "If you keep eating candy, your teeth are gonna fall out" as a real possibility.