Kids whose parents talk to them about tobacco, alcohol and drugs early in life are significantly less likely to use them. And, the more often we bring it up, the more effective our message becomes.

On this page, we’ve gathered information on what is appropriate and understandable information for every age, to guide you in your conversations. 

For ages 2-4:

– When taking daily vitamins let them know that its only okay to take 1, because taking more could make them sick.

-Teach them that they should only take medicines that have their name on them, or that a doctor picked out for them.

-If they see an adult using a substance, for instance smoking a cigarette, teach them that sometimes adults make decisions that are not healthy for their bodies. Also that when people use something like cigarettes, it’s usually very hard to stop. 

For ages 5-10:

-Help them understand that just because a medicine is in your house, does not mean it is okay for them to take. A medicine that could help someone, can hurt someone else.

-Talk to them about the difference between medicinal, and illegal use of drugs.

-Set clear rules and consequences around tobacco, alcohol, and drugs and explain the reasons behind your rules.

-Make sure they know how to get out of situations that make them scared or uncomfortable.

For ages 11-14:

-Bring up conversations you’ve already had, and warn them that this is the age when other kids at school may begin to experiment with substances and have issues with them.

-Teach them about the impact drugs have on a users body and appearance. (Yellow teeth, early wrinkles, difficulty breathing, etc.)

-Give suggestions or help them practice how they might say no if offered tobacco, alcohol or drugs.

-Ask them what they think about the drug-related messages they see and hear.

For ages 15-18:

-Ask them what they have learned about drugs and alcohol in school and build on that conversation.

-Remind them that even if they do make a mistake, it’s okay to come to you for help.

-Try using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. This is a good way to highlight your concerns for them, rather than coming off as accusatory.

-Highlight the dangers of both driving drunk, AND riding with a drunk driver. Being that we live in a state where marijuana is legal, it’s especially important to remind them that driving high is also dangerous and not okay.

For Ages 18+

-Remind them that although they are moving out, or have already done so, you are still there for them if they have questions or want advice.

-Ask about substance use in their new school or town. It may open a dialogue about how they feel about it.

-If they stay in Washington, they will eventually be able to legally use alcohol and marijuana, start conversations about safe and responsible use before that time comes.

For more information, or to see example scenarios, click the links below.

Partnership for Drug Free Kids

StartTalkingNow.org