How to Talk to Your Kids About…Drugs

Regardless of where we live, or the age of our children, at some point, they are going to be exposed to, or hear about drugs.


  1. Unless we take the time to help our children sort through all the messages they are receiving, what they think about drugs can end up being far from the truth.
  2. We need to understand what drugs can do and what drugs are out there in front of our children.
  3. We must start talking to our children when they are young, preschool age. We can’t think about conversations about drugs as a one-time event with our children. It must be an ongoing conversation.

When we talk we need to…

  • Be open and do not exaggerate.
  • Look at your child in the eye when you talk.
  • Not interrupt or preach when your child is talking or asking questions. Listen at least as much as you talk.
  • Assure them that you love them and want them to be healthy and have a happy life.


Use everyday situations to start conversations about drugs. Things you see on TV, hear on the radio in music, see in movies or things their friends might say and do. Even when you give young children medicine for a cold, it is a good opportunity to talk about drugs.

Role play. Act out situations that your child might encounter concerning drugs, and don’t forget prescription drugs. Now I know this can be tricky so we’re going to spend a little more time on how to discuss the “use vs. abuse of legal drugs” in another post later on. But for now, see if you can come up with several real-life examples where you could see your child encountering drugs and try to practice more than one way they could handle each situation.

Know your children’s friends and their parents. Know what they are doing and where they are going. Be involved in their lives and support them in their activities.

Keep your conversations age appropriate. Kids have a hard time understanding “cancer when you are older.” Stick to things they can relate to. “Drugs make it hard for you to play baseball because you can’t think straight or run fast.”

Just because you talk to your child about drugs, doesn’t mean they are more likely to take drugs. So…get talking.

Spend time doing things together as a family and one-on-one. Shared experiences provide non-threatening opportunities for communication, building trust and strengthening relationships.

If your child asks if you ever did drugs, what do you say?

Focus your response on your child and what has prompted them to ask. Most likely it is because they have been faced with a situation involving drugs. You then have a few options.

  • If you say “no” your child might argue, “then how do you know they are bad”? Assure them that you don’t always have to try something to know it is bad. Such as grabbing a saw while it is running. You don’t need to touch it to know it will cut you. Share experiences when you said “no”, and the positive consequences that came as a result.
  • If you say “yes”, that doesn’t mean you have to tell your kids everything. The most important thing, if you are going to say “yes” is to assure your children that it was a VERY BIG MISTAKE and you wish you had never done it. Tell them about the negative consequences so they understand it was not a good choice.

There is no way around it. If we want to arm our children with the tools they need to “just say no”, we have to have start the conversations when they are young, and have them often.

Why Deadly Measles Is on the Rise

Measles was officially eradicated in the U.S. in 2000. But someone forgot to tell the rubeola virus, the highly contagious organism that causes this once common – and sometimes deadly – childhood disease. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that measles cases were on the rise in the U.S., with more infections in the last year than the previous 15.

Many doctors and parents of young children today have never seen a case of the measles, let alone an outbreak. But I have seen a measles outbreak, and I do know how serious it is. I got my immunization the hard way: I had the measles. At the age of 8, I spent 10 days in a dark room, delirious with fever, my parents taking turns placing cold washcloths on my head. I recovered, but other children weren’t so lucky. They died – often from pneumonia – or suffered brain damage as the result of encephalitis, a brain inflammation. About 1 in 10 cases results in ear infections that can cause permanent hearing loss.

Even worse, a rare, frightening complication can occur up to 27 years after a measles infection, particularly in those who contract the disease as babies or young children. Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a fatal, progressive disease that is characterized by mental deterioration and neuromuscular disorders that can result in blindness, an inability to walk and a persistent vegetative state. (Read more about it here.)

What You Don’t Know About Measles — But Should

Most cases of measles in the U.S. are imported. Measles epidemics are still rampant in Europe and other parts of the world where immunizations aren’t mandatory as they are, with some exceptions, in the U.S. For example, a measles epidemic has been raging in France since 2008. More than 22,000 cases have been reported since it began, more than 700 people developed complications and six have died. About 90 percent of the U.S. measles cases originated overseas.

Aiding and abetting this dangerous rise: a susceptible population. “A lot of it is because of that stupid 1998 paper in The Lancet connecting vaccinations with autism,” says Clyde Martin, an expert in health statistics at Texas Tech University. “It has been completely discredited – the data was falsified – but people still believe it.”

That false study is a major reason why some parents won’t have their children immunized. This alarms Martin because of what his numbers are telling him. Martin took a close look at a 1987 measles epidemic in Lubbock, Texas, which was mainly centered at Texas Tech. He examined the medical records of every single student who was affected, and he pored over their vaccination records too.

Many students were vaccinated once the epidemic broke out. But it took a whopping 98 percent of them being immunized to finally stop the epidemic, which drives home the importance of making sure every child gets the vaccine. It only takes a 30-second exposure at 10 feet to contract the virus. With some parents and doctors being lax about immunization, says Martin, “it’s the making of a disaster.”

Eliminating “Personal Belief” Vaccine Exemptions

An easy solution: Eliminate the so-called “personal belief” exemptions to the measles vaccine. The most measles cases have occurred in states with these exemptions that allow parents to opt out of mandatory immunizations because of secular, rather than religious, beliefs. Many of them are based on that one discredited study published in 1998 linking vaccines to autism.

As Martin’s study indicates, you need a high percentage of people vaccinated to get what’s called “herd immunity” to prevent the spread of the disease. An unvaccinated child who contracts the measles has a five-day symptomless period in which he can infect others, including babies that are too young to be vaccinated who are at high risk of SSPE. (See what can happen to an exposed child here.)

Martin thinks some of those exemptions need to be eliminated, particularly those that are granted because parents believe something to be a scientific fact that isn’t. (Read more about the debate here.) “We’ve got to be stricter on the giving of exemptions,” says Martin. “For religious reasons? I have no real problem with that because there aren’t that many. Some people can’t take the vaccine because they’re allergic to eggs, which are used to manufacture it. But ‘Because I don’t want my kid to have autism’ is not acceptable.”


Editor’s Note: For more information on the fraudulent study which started the controversy over a potential link between vaccinations and autism, see this New York Times article which reviews last year’s publication of the case against the study’s lead investigator in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). The BMJ article can be accessed by clicking here.


Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 11-19-2012 to 11-25-2012

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 10 news-worthy events.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Volkswagen Beetle recalls 2,791 cars due to airbag that could deploy even if a child is in the front seat

The Power of No – The Best Gift You’ll Give This Year

’Tis the season for kids to plead, beg and whine for Barbies, Xboxes and iPods. But you don’t have to grant every wish — and more importantly, you shouldn’t. “Hearing ‘no’ helps kids learn to cope with the disappointment and frustrations that are part of everyday life,” says educational psychologist Michele Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.

It also makes your job as a parent easier.

“When kids understand that your ‘no’ means ‘no,’ they’re less likely to keep pushing your buttons. It will actually improve your relationship,” says Borba. Here’s how to say no to your kids while sending positive messages.

Set Parameters

Some gift ideas will be automatically off-limits if they’re unsafe, over your holiday budget or not in line with your family values (toy guns, for example). To avoid an unnecessary power struggle, write your family rules — and explain them — before your kids create their wish lists.

Stay Firm

“The average kid whines to a parent nine times, and the ninth time, the parent gives in,” says Borba. “But if you always keep your word, you’ll ultimately say no less because your kids will know that you mean business.”

Give Guidelines

After your kids circle 36 toys in the holiday catalog, ask them to narrow it down. For younger kids, you might give a number limit; for older ones, a price ceiling. “When you prompt kids to think things through, they begin to prioritize and realize what they truly want,” says Borba. “You’re teaching life skills here — decision-making, prioritizing, respecting boundaries and, for older kids, money management.”

Offer Choices

Children like to feel they have power and autonomy. Use this to your advantage to soften a “no” answer. Choose two acceptable alternative toys and let him choose. For example, “I’m not a fan of the shoot-’em-up video games, but if you want, you could get the racing game or the discovery game. Which would you prefer?”

Nix the ‘No’ Word

Prevent “no” fatigue by coming up with different phrases — especially if they tickle your child’s funny bone. You might say “ix-nay,” “that’s just cuckoo” or “survey says: ehhhh!” Try using a silly accent to turn potential pouts into smiles and giggles.

When you start thinking of “no” as positive rather than negative, you’ll realize the power that it — and you — have over your kids’ whining and wheedling. Consider it a present to yourself.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 11-12-2012 to 11-18-2012

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 news-worthy events.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

What parents should know about antibiotics

Keeping your Child Safer in Open Water

Did you know that children over the age of six usually drown in open water? That means that 71% of the Earth’s surface poses a drowning risk to your child. Rivers, lakes, oceans, retention ponds, streams, drainage ditches, blocked street drains, canals, and of course, flooding from violent storms and hurricanes. I could go on, but you get the idea.

So how do you keep your child safe around open water? And not just now, but for their whole life because adults also usually drown in open water.

Learn the International Open Water Safety Guidelines by heart, and teach your children.

International Open Water Safety Guidelines

Care of Self

  • Learn swimming and water survival skills.
  • Always swim with others.
  • Obey all safety signs and warning flags.
  • Never go in the water after drinking alcohol.
  • Know how and when to use a life jacket.
  • Swim in areas with a lifeguard.
  • Know the weather and water conditions before getting in the water.
  • Always enter shallow and unknown water feet first.

Care of Others

  • Help and encourage others, especially children, to learn swimming and water safety survival skills.
  • Swim in areas with lifeguards.
  • Set water safety rules.
  • Always provide close and constant attention to children you are supervising in or near water.
  • Know how and when to use a life jacket, especially with children and weak swimmers.
  • Learn first aid and CPR.
  • Learn safe ways of rescuing others without putting yourself in danger.
  • Obey all safety signs and warning flags.

What are the Guidelines? The Open Water Safety Guidelines were developed by an international task force that identified the lack of consistent clear messages around open water safety and decided something needed to change. The Guidelines are being adopted by an increasing number of organizations around the world, including: The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Risk Management Department of the U.S. National Parks, Royal Life Saving Society Australia, AUSTSWIM, Commonwealth Lifesaving – Royal Life Saving Society, USA Swimming Foundation, National Drowning Prevention Alliance, International Federation of Swim Teacher’s Association, Kenya Life Saving