Birth through Elementary School

Early Steps
A parent’s actions even before birth are critical to helping a child stay off drugs in later years. Drugs, including nicotine and alcohol, can damage a fetus as early as three weeks after conception. And some research suggests babies born to addicted mothers may be at higher risk to addiction later in their lives.

First Lessons
Long before your children are ready for school, begin teaching them the rules for behavior: honesty, fairness, respect for others and for the law. And be an example: live by those values yourself.

Good Choices
It’s important to keep your children involved in family activities. They should join the family for dinner and be part of family vacations and other activities. Teach your children to make the right decisions on their own, and impart “don’t be a follower” lessons. Teach your children to say “no.”

Keep Communication Open
Just talk. It may seem as though your children are not listening, but don’t give up. Better they hear about drugs from you, than from others – including those who use and sell drugs.

Escape Routes
Give your children reasons for saying no to drugs. Practice responses with your children, such as, “No way. My mom would kill me if I did that.” Teach kids to avoid places where they may be pressured to use illegal drugs. And if they do encounter drugs, teach your children to leave the area.

Middle School

Facts
Parents should know the types of drugs their children could be exposed to and the dangers associated with each. Be able to identify the paraphernalia used with each drug; know street names of the drugs and what they look like. Be alert for changes in your child’s behavior or appearance.

Setting Limits

Many young people use drugs simply because their friends do. Get to know your child’s friends and their parents.

Make sure your child attends only drug-free, chaperoned events. Closely monitor your child’s whereabouts. If there is a last minute change of plans, always have your child check with you.

Keep Your Children Busy
Research has shown that when teens are unsupervised and have little to do, they are more likely to experiment with drugs. Keep your children involved with hobbies and/or extra-curricular activities.

Stay Involved
Although it may take personal sacrifice, a parent must have direct involvement with their children. Attend an open house at school, scout meetings, dance recitals, soccer games, etc. Being an involved parent allows you to be more aware of any changes that may take place in your child’s behavior.

High School

Enforcing Rules
Setting rules for a child is only half the job. In order for these rules to be truly effective, penalties must be enforced. A parent must be prepared to enforce the penalties when rules are broken. Make sure your child knows what the rules are, the reasons for them and what the consequences will be if they’re broken. Allow no second chances.

Consistency
Make it clear the “no drugs or alcohol” rule applies everywhere, not just at home.

Keep Listening
Don’t do all the talking. Listen to your children. Really listen to them. You’ll learn a lot about what they think about drugs and help them avoid pitfalls. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because kids aren’t always very talkative. But as a parent, you must be ready to drop whatever you are doing and listen when their kids are ready to open up.

*Information excerpted from a family guide developed by Reader’s Digest in association with the U.S. Department of Education, ABC Television Network and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Safe and Drug-Free Schools

If you suspect your child (or anyone else) is using drugs, contact the Heath Department of Public Safety at (469) 273-4020.

Other Useful Drug Related Links

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The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University
The Partnership for a Drug Free America
PBS Close to Home Programs
National Institute on Drug Abuse