The Time Is Now – Talk to Your Kids About the Dangers of Substance Use

Does your child know you’d be disappointed if they drank alcohol, smoked marijuana or abused prescription medication? Are you certain they truly understand the risk?

More than 80% of young people ages 10-18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision to drink or not drink. They are listening, so it’s important you, as the parent or guardian, take the initiative to start talking.

First, you must understand the seriousness of a child participating in these dangerous activities. Underage drinking, for example, is often done in the form of binge drinking and can lead to car accidents, violent behavior, alcohol poisoning and other health problems.

As for the dangerous surrounding marijuana use, according to, marijuana affects brain development, especially when the user is young. “When people begin using marijuana as teenagers, the drug may impair thinking, memory, and learning functions, and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions.” Short-term effects may also include impaired memory, changes in mood, and even psychosis. Long-term physical effects can range from breathing problems to problems with child development during and after pregnancy.

Prescription drug abuse is another dangerous area to consider when having these conversations with your children. According to, prescription opioid pain medications target the same receptors that respond to heroin. Prescription stimulants, such as Ritalin, have similar effects to cocaine. Prescription depressants have the same effects as the club drugs GHB and Rohypnol. All can quickly end in fatal overdoses and cause severe damage to the development of the brain.

In Tuscarawas County:

  • Only 75% of kids in grads 6-12 believe their parents would see it as ‘very wrong’ for them to have 1 or 2 drinks of an alcoholic beverage nearly every day.
  • 51% of Tuscarawas County youth in grades 8-12 do not see a great risk or harm with marijuana use.
  • Only 87% of local youths in grades 9-12 believe their parents would view it as ‘very wrong’ for them to misuse prescription medication.

Kim Rykse works in the Prevention Department for Personal & Family Counseling Services and facilitates the school-based prevention education program ‘Takin’ to the Schools.’ She explained that it’s normal to feel a little uncomfortable when approaching the conversation, but stresses it still needs to happen. “The conversation doesn’t have to go perfectly and it’s ok to be unsure of what to say. And, the conversations change as the kids get older.”

She encourages parents to keep the following advice in mind when sitting down with your child:

  • Be calm and really listen and be understanding of what your child has to say.
  • Kids need to feel that they can ask questions, too, as they are bombarded with mixed messages from peers, popular music, and media.
  • Take advantage of natural opportunities. If you see a beer commercial on television, let that start the conversation.
  • Most importantly, be very clear about your expectations. Let them know you don’t approve of these kinds of risk behaviors under any circumstances.

“Talking builds and opens a trusting relationship,” added Rykse. “Short, frequent talks are most effective – a “big” talk can be intimidating for both of you.

Rykse also noted the importance of helping your child build their skills and strategies to handle peer pressure. “Having them practice how to say “no, thanks” and get out of risky situations can be super helpful,” she said. “Help kids have a plan if they are in a situation they want to get out of.”

The task can feel overwhelming, but the resources and individuals willing to help guide you through the process are plentiful. – A great resource that even has an app that helps learn the do and don’ts of talking to your kids about underage drinking – A great place to sign up for monthly parent tips sent to their email from Prevention Action Alliance.

Michaela Madison Reporting


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