Teenagers in Barcelona having their first cigarette
Image by Ekone, Flickr

Here are 10 steps you can take to help your kids avoid alcohol and drug use.

Helping Preteens Stay Out of Trouble with Alcohol and Drugs

If you want your kids to stay out of trouble with alcohol or drugs, first let your children know how much you are concerned about them and their future. Then, here's a list of 10 steps you can take to help your kids avoid alcohol and drug use:

  1. Talk to your child about alcohol and drugs. Make sure he or she understands the dangers and problems of preteen alcohol and drug use. Don't make any topic taboo - kids need to feel that they can talk freely about anything. Avoid lecturing, moralizing or criticizing which are real turn-offs to pre-teens.
  2. Really listen to your child. Just talking to your child is half of the job. Knowing how and when to listen can keep open the lines of communication. Avoid giving too much advice or having all the answers.
  3. Help your child feel good about himself or herself. Preteens and adolescents are often unsure of themselves. Knowing that their parents have confidence in them, and believe in their self-worth, means a lot. One way to do this: give lots of praise and encouragement to your child at appropriate times. Praise effort not just achievement and allow for mistakes. And, when correcting unacceptable actions, criticize the behavior not the child.
  4. Help your child develop strong values. A strong value system, a sense of right and wrong, can give children the courage to make decisions based on facts rather than on pressure from other kids.
  5. Be a good role model. Kids are very aware of your attitudes and habits concerning alcohol and drugs. It is important that parents model acceptable behaviors and attitudes. Your actions will speak louder than words and teens quickly reject adults who have double standards.
  6. Help your preteen deal with peer pressure. Children, who have been taught to be gentle, agreeable, and loving, may need skills to enable them to resist group peer pressure. Give your son or daughter ideas for saying no when they feel the pressure to drink or use drugs. Be knowledgeable about your pre-teen's friends and after-school activities.
  7. Set firm rules about drinking and other drug use. Make your family rules clear and consistent. Tell your kids they are not allowed to drink, smoke, use drugs, or anything else you object to. Be sure they also thoroughly understand the consequences of breaking these rules.
  8. Encourage healthy, creative activities. Make sure your kids have enough structure in their lives. Create activities for them or encourage them to take part in sports, school programs, and hobbies - anything that they can have fun with. Even better, join your kids in having fun.
  9. Talk with other parents. They're all going through the same thing you are. It can help to network with other neighborhood parents and community groups. If your child is going to a party to get together with friends, make sure there is a chaperone and there will be no alcohol or other drugs.
  10. Know what to do if you suspect a problem. Parents can learn to recognize the telltale signs of abuse and use of alcohol, and get help when needed from a doctor or other professional.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Substance Abuse Prevention. Parent Pages was developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. HD 22

Banner photo by Ekone at Flickr.com


Anna Steinkraus
Family & Community Development Program Coordinator
(607) 272-2292 ext. 145

Last updated February 22, 2016