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.

About the Author

Heather Ann Johnson is a homemaker, wife and mother. She and her husband have 4 children. She is an Adjunct Faculty member at Brigham Young University where she teaches students the principles behind successful families. Her site, Family Volley, answers reader’s questions about families, marital relationships, and raising children. Heather is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team


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