What Do I Say? | Parents LEAD

What Do I Say?

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What Do I Say to My Preschooler?

When communicating with your child, your messages can be more effective if you take into account what they know and understand at various stages in their development as well as their readiness to learn new information.

Before starting these conversations, take a moment to learn more about how to deliver that message to your preschooler:

"Having the conversation" with your preschooler

A parent talking openly and honestly with your children about drugs is one of the most effective ways to prevent substance abuse. Discussions about alcohol and drugs need to be an ongoing and begin early on and continues throughout the teenage years and young adulthood. As your child grows, your discussions will change but your dialogue is always centered on keeping your child healthy, happy, and safe.

There are many teachable moments, or "everyday" opportunities, to use when talking to your child about alcohol and other drugs. Sample scenarios are presented below to guide you with ways to infuse prevention messages when everyday opportunities present themselves. Keep your conversations relaxed, friendly, nonjudgmental, and genuine so that your child feels connected to you. Most importantly, be a good listener.


While at a family gathering where adults are drinking alcohol, your child reaches for a drink.

What to Say
"This is a grown-up drink and is only for people who are done growing. You want to grow up big and strong, right? You can have milk, juice, or water." (Or offer them a "special occasion" drink: soda, hot chocolate, apple cider, etc.)


Giving your child a daily vitamin.

What to Say
Vitamins help your body grow. You need to take them every day so that you’ll grow up big and strong like Mommy and Daddy—but you should only take what I give you. Too many vitamins can hurt you and make you sick.

Giving medication to your child or when your child observes you taking your medication.

What to Say
Sometimes the doctor gives you medicine to make you feel better when you are sick. Medicine is very strong and we take it only if the doctor tells us to. The doctor gives you medicine that is special and only for you so you shouldn't take medicine that was made for someone else or you can get very sick.

Giving medication to your child or when your child observes you taking your medication.

What to Say
Vitamins and medicines can sometimes look like candy and taste fruity like candy. Even if it tastes like strawberry, cherry, banana, or grape or looks like candy, it is medicine and can hurt you if you take too much or take it when you aren't sick.

Your kids are curious about medicine bottles around the house.

What to Say
You should only take medicines that have your name on them or that your doctor has chosen just for you. If you take medicine that belongs to somebody else, it could be dangerous and make you very sick.

Your child sees an adult smoking and, since you've talked about the dangers of smoking, is confused.

What to Say
Grownups can make their own decisions and sometimes those decisions aren't the best for their bodies. Sometimes, when someone starts smoking, his or her body feels like it has to have cigarettes—even though it’s not healthy. And that makes it harder for him or her to quit.

SOURCE: Portions of Time to Talk Parent Talk Kit. Download this helpful reference now. The Partnership at drugfree.org.
INFORMATION Sources: The Partnership at drugfree.org; U.S. Department of Education's publication, Growing Up Drug-Free: A Parent's Guide to Prevention(1998) and the White House Office of National Drugs Policy's Juvenile and Drug- Overviews(2002).

You Should Know...


  • Discuss family values
  • Role-model healthy behaviors
  • Encourage your child to participate in healthy activities