You are the single biggest influence in a child's life. Have meaningful discussions with 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 into 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.
OASAS has developed resources to help loved ones start a conversation about addiction. Discussion guides, videos, and print material for sparking a meaningful discussion about addiction at any age, plus conversation starters.
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
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
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
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 specific warning signs specific for alcohol, problem gambling, for drugs on specific addiction pages.
Kinship Care Toolkit
Kinship care can refer to grandparents, aunts/uncles, extended relatives, and family friends who are caring full-time for children who's parents can no longer care for them due to substance use/addiction, incarceration, death, or other circumstances. Kinship care helps protect children and maintains family bonds, cultural connections, and a sense of community.
The toolkit provides information on subjects such as grief, identifying red-flag behavior in youth, having age-appropriate discussions and self-care for kinship care providers. The toolkit also includes interactive exercises for children in kinship care to help express their feelings and promote positive thinking and self-image.
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.