Back to School Means It’s Time to Talk


Back to school means it’s time to talk to your kids (again) about the risks of drug and alcohol use.

One of the most influential factors during a child’s adolescence is maintaining a strong, open relationship with a parent. “When parents create supportive and nurturing environments, children make better decisions,” according to Cynthia Redmond, Community Prevention Specialist at Riverhead CAP. “Though it may not always seem like it, children really want to hear their parents’ opinions.”

The #1 reason kids give for not drinking or using drugs is that they don’t want to disappoint their parents. Children who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are significantly less likely to use drugs. It’s never too early to start talking to your children. If you haven’t started yet, it’s not too late either.

resources for parents

Riverhead CAP has developed a resource for parents to help them talk to their children about this important issue. The resource is available in English and Spanish. It also outlines the risks youth face when they use vape products (e-cigarettes) and marijuana, as well as alcohol.

how to talk

Redmond suggests parents practice the following steps:

  • Take time to discuss alcohol, drugs, and vaping with your child at a young age. It can be in the car or during a movie, for example. Point out issues related to substance use to open the conversation
  • Acknowledge any family history with drugs or alcohol as you would with any chronic illness like diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Listen without interruption. Encourage your child’s thoughts and feelings. If you hear something you don’t like, don’t respond with anger or punishment. Talk about your feelings in a constructive way
  • Keep talking. One “Big Talk” is not enough. Ongoing discussions throughout childhood and the teen years are important to keeping the lines of communication open and expectations clear

Additional talking tips include:

  1. Start calmly
  2. Start casually
  3. Pick a peaceful surrounding
  4. Stay upbeat
  5. Watch your body language
  6. Focus on the facts
  7. Avoid scare tactics
  8. Show your child you’re listening
  9. Role play how to navigate real-life situations
  10. Appeal to your child’s sense of self-respect
get the resources

Click here to get CAP’s Parent Resource in English, and here for Spanish.
SAMHSA’s “Talk. They Hear You” campaign contains additional resources, as well as an app parents can download.
NYS OASAS’ Talk2Prevent campaign has a Parent Toolkit on its website.
Additional resources can be found on CAP’s Resource Page here.