VCkidsFYI: Need a New Year’s Resolution? Talk to your kids about alcohol and drugs

Ventura County Behavioral Health

It's a New Year. A good time to start. Talking about alcohol and drugs with your kids may seem like a big Ask. Make it part of daily conversations. This makes it more ordinary, and eventually the norm. Everyday moments can be teachable moments.

When talking to kids, It helps to deflect the focus. It doesn't always work to sit at a table and have "the discussion." Where can you go to hang out with your teen, or pre-teen? Think of a few places to grab that moment and ease into a brief talk about drinking at a party, or being tempted by a school mate to try marijuana. Make it an easy and short talk.

Tips for Parents

Where to talk

Parallel activities work best. Set up non-confrontational opportunities, such as:
  • At the movies.
  • Going shopping together at the mall.
  • Physical activities, like walking, or doing any sport where you can talk. Take a water break.
  • At the grocery store.
  • Cooking a meal together.
  • Watching TV or playing a game together.

How to talk

  • Make it an easy dialogue and not too long of a time period.
  • Ease into the conversation.
  • Ask open ended questions, not intrusive or blaming. What would you do if you were at a party where drinking was happening? What do you think about drinking, or about taking drugs?
  • Solicit their ideas. Make a safety plan together. Focus on what if’s and discussing scenarios.

When to talk

  • Make it a regular discussion. Just like school, homework, and activities.
  • Tie it into everyday life and news. Have a family conversation.
  • Make it OKAY to talk about challenging subjects like alcohol and drugs.
  • Eventually, write down a plan together. How to stay safe. How to get help in a difficult situation. How to deal with peers.
  • Become their ally and assure them that you are available to listen. Just start now. Have the talk.

Do 3 things. Start slow

  • Make the time to talk. Invest a set amount of time every week.
  • Learn about the drugs kids are using today.
  • Write down some rules and make a safety plan. Do it together if you can.
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To Learn More

Learning about the risks and realities of drug and alcohol use is a first step for parents. Talking about concerns is important, and there are tips on how to do this. These are helpful resources that can give you the tools and the confidence to get started this year.

Learn about the potential dangers of teens and marijuana use in What You Need to Know about Teens and Marijuana. This is a one page handout that can be a conversation starter.


If you're concerned about signs of drug use with your child, call (805) 981-9200 to talk with a professional at Ventura County Behavioral Health's Youth Services Program. Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM.
TAGS: Youth, Parents
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