How to Talk to Your Child About Addiction


Children of parents who abuse substances are more than twice as likely to develop an alcohol or drug addiction themselves by the time they reach young adulthood.1 Even if you do not have a substance use disorder, having an open, honest conversation can have a lasting positive effect when you talk to your child about addiction.

Build a Close Relationship Early On

Although a child’s friends often seem to be their prime influencers, parents still have sway with their teenagers.

Parents should begin the conversation about substance abuse and addiction while the child is young, in developmentally appropriate ways.2 Establishing and maintaining a close, loving relationship will also help prevent friction later when you will need to monitor your child’s behavior and social life as they gain independence.

Discuss things you have in common with your child, such as sports, movies and art, and frequently talk about life events. Show an interest and take part in the hobbies and activities they like to engage in. When conflicts arise, keep your anger in check. Speak calmly but firmly, and remember to offer encouragement and positive feedback. Frequent arguments or physical punishment can weaken relationships and increase the risk for substance use.

Keep the Conversation Going

Talk to your child about addiction and the risks of drug and alcohol use on a regular basis. When you both witness an intoxicated person on the news or a television show, for example, take that opportunity to have a discussion about it.

Be clear about your disapproval of taking drugs or underage drinking. Your feelings about underage drinking and drug use will reduce the chances that your child will experiment with substances in their teen years. Don’t lecture your child, but do communicate the health and safety risks of teen alcohol and drug use. They will remember what you’ve said, and the perception of substances as being harmful will help prevent underage drinking and substance abuse.

Helping Prevent Addiction Among Teens

talk to your child about addiction

If you’re unsure of how to begin a conversation about addiction with your child, a good start is to ask, “Has anyone ever offered you drugs or alcohol?”

Instead of asking questions about your child’s personal use, this question may open up a discussion about:

  • Why people drink or use drugs
  • What your child’s feelings are about drug use
  • Why they should avoid using substances
  • Ways to use social skills to refuse alcohol and drugs

Protecting your child from addiction to substances means creating the right environment at home that includes open conversation, modeling appropriate behavior and taking action when necessary. Be a good listener, provide clear messages about not using drugs or alcohol, help your child learn ways to deal with peer pressure, supervise teen activities and be aware of where your child goes and who they spend their time with.3

Most importantly, maintain an open and honest dialogue with your child at all developmental stages.



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