a caregiver has a compassionate check-in with an adolescent at home

Parents and Kinship Caregivers

Open communication and clear rules and expectations go a long way.


You are the single biggest influence in a child's life. Have meaningful discussions with them about staying safe, avoiding drugs, alcohol, gambling and vaping. Children who have regularly heard of the dangers of substance use are less likely to give in to potentially addictive behaviors.

  • Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Set clear rules and boundaries and communicate them often.
  • Take measures to safeguard your liquor cabinet and prescription drugs.
  • Don't be afraid to bring up peer pressure and experimenting, or family history with addiction.
  • Get to know their friends and their friends' parents/guardians. 
    • Make sure they know your rules and boundaries regarding alcohol, drugs and gambling, sleepovers/parties and curfews.
  • Talk to educators and other school staff (administrators, coaches, and school counselors).
    • Pursuant to NYS Education Law (EDN §3038), each school district has a designated staff member that is able to provide students and families with information and resources about substance use and addiction. 

Tips for Talking

  • Encourage conversation, Don't lecture. Encourage children and teens to share their thoughts and feelings about whatever issue you're discussing. Listen and respond thoughtfully to their concerns. Avoid questions that have a simple "yes" or "no" answer, to start a meaningful dialogue about addiction, substance use, and gambling.
  • Show respect to the child's point of view. Acknowledge their feelings in a constructive way, don't respond with anger or judgment. It will make them more likely to listen to and respect your viewpoint. Focus efforts on teaching children what to do as opposed to what not to do. 
  • Don't hide a family history of issues substance use or addiction. The truth is important. When you feel they're ready, address your family history and experiences with drugs or alcohol. It doesn't have to be uncomfortable, drawing from our past experiences can be a powerful teaching moment.

Start a conversation about addiction- Discussion guides, videos, and print material for sparking a meaningful discussion about addiction at any age, plus conversation starters.

Kinship Care

Being on a recovery journey sometimes means spending time away from home. Kinship care is when family members or close friends step in to care for a child dealing with addiction in the home. A parent's sudden absence can be due to residential care, hospitalization, incarceration, overdose/death. Kinship care keeps children safe and connected to family and community through difficult life situations.

We designed this toolkit to support children and their caregivers, but the tools can be used by anyone looking to initiate difficult conversations surrounding loss, separation or abandonment.

The Kinship Care toolkit includes:

  • Information about grief
  • Spotting "red-flag" behavior in youth and young adults
  • Having age-appropriate discussions
  • Interactive exercises for children to express their feelings, promote positive thinking and self-image.

Key Steps

Limit Access

Keep alcohol and prescription drugs out of reach from young children and teenagers. First-time experimentation with drugs or alcohol often occurs in the home or in friends' homes.

  • Take steps to safeguard your liquor cabinet and medicine cabinet. If you keep alcohol in the home, make sure you are track it or lock/store liquor where children and teens cannot easily access it. 
  • Get to know their social circles and the families of those in their social circles. Make sure they understand your rules and boundaries.
  • Prescription drugs and even over-the-counter drugs can be dangerous when misused. Track any medications you take and teach children and teens that you should only use medicine that has been prescribed to you and only use at the intended dosage.
Dispose of Medications Safely 

Keep track of what's in your medicine cabinet dispose of unused or expired prescription medications safely. Proper disposal of prescription medications can prevent:

  • Drug misuse
  • Accidental poisonings
  • Medication getting into the wrong hands
  • Confusion with other medications in the same storage area
  • Consumption of old or expired medication

Participate in the annual Drug Take Back Day initiative and locate an authorized disposal site at www.dea.gov/takebackday

Find authorized medication drop-off sites in your county via the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.



Discuss peer pressure and make a plan together for how children should respond to these situations.

  • Role play scenarios so they can be prepared to say "no," when feeling pressured in real life.
  • Agree on a code that gives kids and easy way escape a sticky situation discreetly. For example, if they text you "X," this is your signal to call them with a pretend scenario that required them to come home immediately, and give them an easy way to escape a peer pressure situation, no questions ask


Warning Signs

Substance use and addiction can be isolating. Take steps to connect with children and teens every day and pay close attention to any notable shifts in behavior, as it could be a sign of early use. Changes in attitude or personality- moodiness, irritability, nervousness, or even giddiness could all be early signs of substance use and gambling or addiction.

General warning signs include:

  • Sudden change in friends; new hangouts
  • Change or loss of interest in activities, hobbies, or sports
  • Drop in grades or work performance
  • Avoiding family or family events
  • Stealing

Physical warning signs include:

  • Loss or increase in appetite; unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Inability to sleep or unusual laziness
  • The smell of substance on breath or clothes
  • Nausea, vomiting, sweating, shaking of hands, feet or head
  • Red, watery eyes; pupils larger or smaller than usual; blank stare
  • Thick tongue, slurred speech


Warning signs vary by addiction. Learn more about warning signs specific to alcohol, drugs, and/or problem gambling.

Join a Coalition

A coalition is a group of community members who work together to solve problems, affect change in the social environment, and work towards a better collective future. If your community has been affected by the opioid crisis or addiction in general, and you would like to join a community coalition, there may be one in your area. Contact your local Prevention Resource Center to find a community coalition near you that is aligned with your goals.


Find Prevention resource Center


  • talk2kids encourages parents to talk to their children about gambling and provides helpful videos on starting the conversation
  • The Dangers of Youth Gambling Addiction is an e-Book that covers brain development and at-risk behavior, how youth are introduced to gambling, signs of underage problem gambling, how to educate youth about gambling, and what you can do to raise awareness of gambling in your community.
  • “Mind Ride” Animated infographic about the brain and how it is affected by gambling.