Helping Your Child Avoid Tobacco, Drugs, and Alcohol

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Positive self-esteem, a supportive family, and positive role models help teens gain confidence to make good choices. Even young children have opinions about substance use. So start early to help your child learn the skills needed to avoid substance use.

  • Be a good role model.

    As a parent, your attitude toward tobacco, alcohol, and drugs is one of the greatest influences on whether your child will use substances. If you have a substance use disorder, get help. If you quit, your teen is more likely to get help early if your teen starts using a substance.

  • Share your beliefs.

    They may not act like it, but most children listen to what their parents tell them. Talk with your teen about the effects of substances on emotions, schoolwork, and health. If you have a family history of substance use, talk with your teen about their increased risk for the same problems.

  • Get informed.

    Learn about the substances commonly used by teens. Find out how the drugs work, what their street names are, and what the signs of being under the influence are.

  • Stay connected.

    Know your teen's friends. Know where your teen is at all times. Set times when your family is expected to be together, such as at mealtimes. Plan outings or other fun activities.

  • Be fair and consistent.

    Extreme discipline can increase the risk of substance use.

    • Expect your teen to follow the household rules. Set reasonable consequences for unacceptable behavior. Then consistently carry them out.
    • Make a contract with your teen. Write down what you expect from your teen and what the consequences will be if the plan isn't followed.
    • Praise your teen for successes.
  • Encourage activities.

    Keep your teen busy with meaningful activities. These may include sports, faith group programs, or other group involvement. Teens who feel good about themselves are less likely to use alcohol and drugs.

  • Talk about the personal and legal consequences.
    • Talk about how the use of substances while trying to develop adult skills—like going to school or getting a job—can affect your teen's future.
    • Explain that substance use can lead to behaviors such as unsafe sex, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy.
    • Remind your teen that it's illegal for teens to use any substances.
    • Talk about the increased risk of car crashes, violence, and arrests because of substance use.

Helping your teen say "no" to drugs and other substances

You can teach your teen these ways to respond if someone offers them drugs or alcohol.

  • Look the person in the eye and say "No, thanks." Sometimes that's all you need to do. Say it as many times as you need to. Also tell the person not to ask you again: "I'm cool with my decision, so don't bother me again."
  • Say why you don't want to use drugs or alcohol. Here are some examples: "I don't like how I act when I drink or use drugs," "I like to know what I'm doing," "If my parents find out, they'll take my car away," or "I have to practice with my band tomorrow."
  • Walk out. It's okay to leave a party or group where others are drinking or using drugs.
  • Offer another idea. For example, say "I'd rather play video games" or "Let's listen to some music." By doing this, you might also prevent your friend from drinking or using drugs.
  • Ask for respect. Make it clear that you don't want to drink or use drugs and that continuing to ask you is showing no respect for your opinions: "I don't give you a hard time. So why are you giving me a hard time?"
  • Think ahead. If you think you might go someplace where people are drinking or using drugs, don't go. But if you do go, think in advance about what you will do if someone offers you drugs or alcohol.


Current as of: November 15, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.