Originally Published on treehouserehab.org

This guide will cover the do’s and don’ts for talking to your kids about the dangers of addiction and substance abuse, regardless of age. Even if you think your child is well-aware of the risks, as the most important role model in his or her life, it is always necessary to have the conversation. Don’t forget to stress above all that you love your child and will always do what you can to protect them.

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It isn’t always easy knowing how to talk to your children about the serious issues that could have a dangerous impact on their lives like drug and alcohol abuse. Many parents aren’t sure when they should bring up the topic, not to mention exactly how to approach it. But parents, have no fear — this guide is for you.

DON’T assume your child already knows the dangers of drug and alcohol use and abuse, or that they could never fall victim. A lot of kids think that you can only become addicted if you use a lot of a substance or use it repeatedly, but for some, all it takes is a single taste. Make sure your child understands that risk, and never brush off an instance of his or her using as a fluke.

DO start the conversation early. Parents of younger children might think they have years before they really need to discuss the dangers of drugs, but in fact, it’s never too early to start warning them. A good place to start is around the age of about 5; your child will be more receptive to your advice and guidance, and you can start somewhat small by discussing the safety around medications they take for colds or that they see you take for a headache. Discuss how all medicines — prescription and over-the-counter alike — come with risks and should be used with care. Let them know that for this reason, they should never take any kind of medicine without your guidance because it can be very dangerous. Don’t scare him or her, but do emphasize the seriousness of the matter.

Make sure to note that prescription medications can be especially dangerous. Your child should never take medications that aren’t prescribed to them. Explain that prescription drugs are much more powerful and come with more serious side effects, and that is why they require a doctor’s guidance. If you or your partner has any that your child may see you take regularly, go over the side effects. Explain that your doctor had many things to consider before ultimately deciding to give you that prescription and you must take it at only a certain dosage in order to minimize the risks. Emphasize that if anyone else took your prescription, it could be extremely dangerous, and for a child, it could even be life-threatening.