How to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs

Parenting kids about drugs

The Drug Talk by Developmental Stage

Strategies for connecting with kids about life-and-death issues

Discussing drugs with your children can be a challenging yet crucial conversation. As a parent, it’s important to approach these discussions in a way that is age-appropriate and informative. By adapting your approach to suit your child’s developmental stage, you can create a foundation of understanding and trust that will help guide them through the complexities of the world. In this blog post, we’ll provide you with tips on how to talk about drugs with children of different age groups.

  1. Preschool and Early Elementary Years (Ages 3-7): During these early years, keep the conversation simple and age-appropriate. Use everyday situations to introduce concepts of medicine, substances, and safety. Focus on teaching them about the difference between things that help our bodies (like medicine prescribed by a doctor) and things that can harm our bodies. Emphasize the importance of asking an adult before taking anything.
  2. Late Elementary and Middle School Years (Ages 8-12): As your child gets older, their curiosity about the world increases. Start introducing more detailed discussions about drugs, including both legal and illegal substances. Use news stories, movies, or TV shows as conversation starters. Be prepared to answer their questions honestly and provide information about the potential risks and consequences of drug use. Reinforce that they can come to you with questions without fear of getting into trouble.
  3. Early High School Years (Ages 13-15): During this stage, peer pressure and a desire for independence become more significant. Talk openly about the risks associated with drugs, including addiction, health problems, and legal consequences. Encourage critical thinking and decision-making skills by discussing real-life scenarios and helping them practice saying “no” in challenging situations. They may roll their eyes and say it’s corny, but they are listening.
  4. Late High School Years (Ages 16-18): As your child nears adulthood, they will face more complex choices. Engage in candid conversations about the effects of drugs on brain development, academic performance, and overall life goals. Discuss the importance of making responsible choices and setting boundaries. Keep communication lines open and assure them that they can always turn to you for guidance without fear of getting into trouble.

Drugs and Teenagers: A reality check


Drug use went up by 61% among 8th graders between 2016 and 2020.


Sixty-two percent of high school seniors have abused alcohol.


HALF of all teenagers have misused drugs at least once.

*From the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics


Talking to your children about drugs at different ages requires an adaptable approach. The key is to foster an environment of trust and open communication, where your child feels comfortable discussing their thoughts, concerns, and questions; at all ages, this means telling them that they can come to you with issues related to drugs without fear of getting into trouble. Remember that building a foundation of knowledge and understanding from a young age will empower your child to make informed decisions as they navigate the world around them. Your role as a parent is not only to inform but also to support and guide them through life’s challenges.

*Published on August 17, 2023

Learn more about Parenting and how to communicate effectively with your kids.

Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.


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