A parent talking openly and honestly with their children about drugs is one of the most effective ways to prevent substance abuse. Discussions about alcohol and drugs are an ongoing conversation that begins 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 talk 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 and knows they trust in and feel comfortable coming to you when needed. Most importantly, be a good listener. Before starting those conversations, click here to learn more about how to deliver that message to your 7-9 grader:

Your child is upset because you have given him an earlier curfew than his friends. He tells you that it is embarrassing and wishes you wouldn't control his life.

What to Say
"Your curfew is meant to keep you safe and I would do anything to keep you safe. If you are not home by your curfew, there will be consequences.”

Your child is just starting middle school and you know that eventually, he will be offered drugs and alcohol.

What to Say
There are a lot of changes ahead of you in middle school. I know we talked about drinking and drugs when you were younger, but now I think you’ll at least hear about kids who are experimenting, if not find yourself some place where kids are doing stuff that is risky. I just want you to remember that I’m here for you and the best thing you can do is just talk to me about the stuff you hear or see. Don’t think there’s anything I can’t handle or that you can’t talk about with me, okay?

You find out that youth are selling prescription drugs at your child’s school. Your child hasn’t mentioned it and you want to get the conversation about it started.

What to Say
Hey, you probably know that parents talk to each other and find things out about what’s going on at school…I heard there are kids selling pills – prescriptions that either they are taking or someone in their family takes. Have you heard about kids doing this?

Your child’s favorite celebrity — the one he or she really looks up to — has been named in a drug scandal.

What to Say
I think it must be really difficult to live a celebrity life and stay away from that stuff. Being in the public eye puts a ton of pressure on people, and many turn to drugs because they think drugs will relieve that stress. But a lot of famous people manage to stay clean – like [name others who don’t do drugs] – and hopefully this incident is going to help [name of celebrity] straighten out his life. Of course, people make mistakes – the real measure of a person is how accountable he is when he messes up. It will be interesting to see how he turns out, won’t it?The thing is, when a person uses drugs and alcohol—especially a kid because you're still growing—it changes how your brain works and makes you do really stupid things. Most people who use drugs and alcohol need a lot of help to get better. I hope [name] has a good doctor and friends and family members to help him/her.

Your child asks, “Did you do drugs?”

What to Say
Be honest but be careful not to say too much. For example, if your child asks if you have ever used marijuana, you can say, “I have tried marijuana but back then, we didn’t know how harmful it was. Now we know more about how bad it is and besides marijuana now is different from what it was then…much more potent and dangerous.”

Suggestions for parents on how to communicate with their children via text messages

  • Hope UR having fun. Stay smart. Luv u
  • Be ur self. Be safe
  • I’m lucky ur my kid. Luv u
  • Thx for being so great. Have fun. Stay safe
  • If u need me – call me
  • Remember, I trust u. Love ya
  • Remember our talk. Love u and have fun.
  • Be careful and have fun.
  • Let me know where u r when u have a min. thx
  • Give me a call when u get a chance. Luv u
  • I’m always here if u need to talk.
  • Luv u.

Looking for guidance on setting rules for your child’s cell phone? This is where the Family Cell Phone Contract comes in handy. It’s about setting clear rules and expectations for the privilege of owning or having access to a cell phone. Adjust it to fit your family needs and post it somewhere visible as a reminder of what has been agreed upon by both parties.

Time of Transition

Your child will encounter several transitions throughout their school years. Moving from elementary school to junior high to high school to college and beyond can be a very stressful time for many children. Children report that moving, leaving friends, and changing schools can cause great anxiety for some students. This may result in academic difficulties, social/emotional problems, decline in self-concept, poor motivation, decreased attendance, and increased dropout rates. In addition, there are other transitions such as loss of a loved one, parents’ divorce, or birth of a new sibling can increase the chance of your child participating in high risk behaviors. Talk to your teen about these moments being temporary and assist them to identify healthy coping skills.

Source: The Partnership at