Some parents find talking about drugs with their children difficult, but these discussions are critically important. Start talking when your child is young and keep talking as they grow older. And remember — a big part of talking is listening.

At this age, you can focus on small “teachable moments” — like if you see someone smoking, tell your child that tobacco is bad and can make people sick. Or when cleaning, tell them these products have unsafe ingredients, that your child should never take a drug unless you give it to them.

Remember kids at this age have short attention spans, so give short and honest answers. Also, teach them to make good choices by letting them make decisions like what to wear that help build confidence.

Children at this age are anxious to learn, and now is a good time to discuss consequences. Explain that even good medicine can make you sick if not prescribed for you and repeat that message regularly.

At this age, kids start experiencing stressors that can lead to substance abuse. This is an important time to listen, observe and check in with other parents. Talk about the risks of all substances and show them credible websites like justthinktwice.com where they can get information.

By this age, most youth have had opportunities to try drugs, alcohol and tobacco. They may even have friends with substance use disorders. Help create healthy activities, praise good choices, remind them that substance use can shatter dreams and set and keep limits.

There are many resources online with tips on having the talk, including getsmartaboutdrugs.gov and drugfree.org.

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