Drug Free Youth - Drug Free Teens

Resources for Parents



If you could do one thing that would help your child succeed in school, live a healthier life, and develop to his or her fullest potential, would you do it?  


If you answered “yes,” then talk with your child about alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs. Find out what he knows.  Explain to her that using these substances can interfere with studying and can cause grades to suffer by affecting memory and learning skills. Describe the harmful health effects of substances. Let him know how these substances can cause problems in relationships and among friends and can tear families apart. Study after study has found that parents make a difference in the choices their children make. Please know that you make a difference!  


By the time they enter preschool, most children have seen adults smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol either in real life or in the media, or both. Children today are exposed to illegal drugs as early as elementary school, so it’s never too early to talk with your child about drugs.


It is the goal of this website to help you do just that. It is designed for parents and caregivers of children ages 7 to 13. It focuses on six key things you can do to help your child grow up drug free:


1. Establish and maintain good communication with your child.

2. Get involved in your child’s life.

3. Make clear rules and enforce them with consistency and appropriate consequences.

4. Be a positive role model.

5. Teach your child to choose friends wisely.

6. Monitor your child’s activities.


The suggestions in this guide are just that—suggestions. You may want to translate this information into your own words and use your own style to communicate it.


If You Love a Child, You Need To Know This

As you read this guide, you may wonder how useful the information is to you and your child. Some parents aren’t aware of how common alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs are in their child’s life. The facts may surprise you. However, they shouldn’t discourage you. Parents have an incredible influence on their child’s decision whether or not to use drugs. The following facts emphasize just how much your children need your support and guidance when it comes to making positive decisions about alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.


Drugs Are Everywhere

Youth drug use cuts across all ethnic, geographic, and socioeconomic lines. Youth experience pressure to use alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs at increasingly early ages. In fact, in one survey, adolescents ages 12 to 17 named drugs—along with social and academic pressures—as the most important problem they face.


“Every child in America is a risk of using drugs, regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status.’  -National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse II.


The 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) states that:

  • Among surveyed youths, ages 12 to 17, more than 1 in 9 (11.6 percent) reported current use of illegal drugs in the 30 days before the study.

  • Marijuana is the major illegal drug used by this group; 8.2 percent of youths were current users of marijuana in 2002.

  • Among 12 and 13-year-olds surveyed, 4.2 percent reported current illegal drug use. The primary drugs used by 12 and 13-year-olds were marijuana, nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers, and inhalants.

Statistics show that, fortunately, the majority of youth do not use drugs.  However, some parents still underestimate how often their kids are exposed to drugs. According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (an organization that conducts attitude surveys of youth and parents):

  • Eighteen percent of parents think their child has tried marijuana versus 40 percent of teens who say they have tried marijuana.

  • Thirty-one percent of parents believe their teen has been offered drugs versus 52 percent of teens who say they have been offered drugs.

  • Four percent of parents think their child has abused inhalants versus 19 percent of teens who say they have abused inhalants.

If your child uses drugs, what other risks might he face? According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):


·      Youth, ages 12 to 17, who smoke cigarettes are over 8 times more likely to use illegal drugs and over 17 times more likely to drink heavily than nonsmoking youth.

·      Youth, ages 12 to 17, who use marijuana weekly are nine times more likely than nonusers to experiment with illegal drugs or alcohol, six times more likely to run away from home, five times more likely to steal, nearly four times more likely to engage in violence, and three times more likely to have thoughts about committing suicide.


The Good News Is…

Research shows that parental influence is a primary reason that youth don’t use drugs. Most teens who do not use alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs credit their parents as a major factor in that decision.

·      Teens who learn a lot about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 54 percent less likely to try drugs.

·      30.2 percent of adolescents report using marijuana in the past month when their parents do not strongly disapprove of drug use. In contrast, only 5.5 percent of teens report using marijuana in the past month when their parents strongly oppose drug use.



The Difference Between Boys and Girls

There’s no denying that boys and girls are different. Differences between the sexes become more obvious with the onset of puberty, as do boys’ and girls’ needs when it comes to resisting alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use. Boys and girls experience adolescence differently because of various social, cultural, physiological, and psychological challenges. For example, among boys, puberty tends to increase aggressive behavior, while among girls puberty tends to bring a higher incidence of depression.


Studies show that girls may lose self-confidence and self-worth during this pivotal time, become less physically active, perform less well in school, and neglect their own interests and aspirations. During these years, girls are more vulnerable to negative outside influences and to mixed messages about risky behaviors. Girls are also at higher risk than boys for sexual abuse, which has been associated with substance abuse.


Puberty generally occurs a year or two later in boys than it does in girls. The physical changes boys go through can cause a lack of coordination that may lead to injury.  Boys tend to experience mood swings and can have feelings of anxiety during puberty.  During these years, boys crave exploration of things associated with being grown up, including sexual behavior or experimentation with alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs.  But boys and girls also have a lot in common. They need the same kinds of guidance, information, and nuture from their parents to help them grow into healthy, well-informed adolescents and adults. Both boys and girls are less likely to smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs if they have:


·      A positive attitude, an ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and a belief in their ability to “handle things.”

·      A warm, close-knit family and parental supervision with consistent discipline.

·      Close friends, an extended family that provides support, community resources, and family and community attitudes that do not tolerate substance abuse.


Quick Quiz

How well do you know your child?

1. What is your child’s favorite color?

2. Who is your child’s best friend?

3. What are the names of your child’s teachers?  Who is your child’s favorite teacher?  Do you know why?

4. Who are some of your child’s role models?  What does he admire about those individuals?

5. What would your child wish for if she saw a falling star?

6. What is your child’s favorite food?

7. What is your child’s favorite movie or TV show?

8. What three words would your child use to describe himself? To describe you?

9. What are your child’s hobbies?

10. What are your child’s future goals?


Check with your child to see how well you did on the quiz.



Monitor Your Child’s Activities


Monitoring your child’s activities is an important deterrent to alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use. One study found that latchkey youth who were home alone 2 or more days per week were four times more likely to have gotten drunk in the past month than those youth who had parental supervision five or more times a week. Another study found that children who had the least monitoring initiated drug use at earlier ages. And the earlier a child starts using drugs, the greater the likelihood that a serious problem will develop as a result.


Action Steps To Monitor Your Child’s Activities


1. Establish relationships with your child’s friends. Children are more likely to experiment with drugs if their friends do and if they spend a lot of unsupervised time together.  Knowing your child’s friends can put you in closer touch with your child’s daily life. You’ll be better able to recognize trouble spots and guide your child away from risky situations, dangerous behaviors, and negative peer influences. Also, when parental monitoring is high, adolescents are much less likely to choose friends who use drugs. Thus, parents have a powerful influence on their adolescents by their influence on their choice of friends and their monitoring of the peer selection process. Youth are less likely to use drugs if they think their parents and friends disapprove of drug use and if their friends do not use drugs themselves.


2. Get to know other parents. Arrange to attend school events or other gatherings with parents. As parents, you can reinforce each other’s efforts and provide a valuable support network for both you and your children.


3. When your child goes out, make sure you know where he’s going, who he’ll be with, and what he’ll be doing. Ask for phone numbers and addresses of friends’ houses and other places your child likes to go. Let him know you may call or drop by to check up on him, and don’t be afraid to do just that. Start this practice early, when the child first starts to visit friends at 8 or 9 years old. Then it will be habit rather than hassle when he is 14.


4. Have your child check in at regular times and make it easy for her to contact you. Give her a phone card, change, or even a pager, with clear rules for using them. Make sure she has your cell phone number and knows where you are going to be and how you can be reached.


5. Make sure your child has access to enjoyable, drug-free, structured activities. Youth who are involved in constructive, supervised activities during after-school hours and on weekends are less likely to use drugs. Encouraging your child’s involvement in these activities and participating when you can (e.g., going to a soccer game, painting props for a play) are powerful ways to prevent drug use.


Coranne, Jason, and Nicole’s Story


Coranne’s daughter Nicole is in seventh grade. Nicole’s older brother Jason, a firefighter, is married and has a son of his own. Although he doesn’t have to “check in” with mom anymore, Coranne says old habits die hard.


“Jason calls me almost every day.  Sometimes it’s just to say a quick hello; other times he needs some advice. I think it just became a routine for him that continued on into adulthood. It’s the same with Nicole now.  I make sure that no matter where she is, she has to call me. Because if I find out about something after the fact, then she is grounded or her privileges are taken away.  For example, she went to a friend’s house after school and I gave her a time to call me. That time passed, so I paged her.  When she did call me back, I asked her why she didn’t call. She didn’t have an acceptable explanation, so I came and got her right away, and she had to come straight home from school the next day.  But I made sure that at least I gave her the opportunity to explain, and I didn’t just fly off the handle.”


Monitoring Your Child’s Activities and Providing a Variety of Positive Activities Are Important Because... Some Kids Use Drugs When They Think They Have Nothing Better To Do

Many youth say they started smoking marijuana or using illegal drugs out of “boredom.” In fact, having significant amounts of unsupervised time is a risk factor for youth substance abuse. Unfortunately, changes over the years in family structures and neighborhood networks have increased the amount of time that many young people spend unsupervised. Even if you aren’t able to be with your child during the after-school hours, you can seek out activities your child can participate in. Involvement in supervised activities not only occupies free time that could otherwise permit involvement in harmful or dangerous activities, but it helps young people develop skills, establish friendships, identify their talents, and develop a strong sense of self-esteem.  They learn self-confidence and skills that last a lifetime, and studies show they are much less likely to use drugs or alcohol.


Resources to help you find activities for your child include:


1. School programs. Check with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or principal and ask about after-school activities sponsored by the school or your local department of education.


2. City and county programs. Call your mayor’s office or local department of parks and recreation and ask for information on youth programs. Many counties offer a brochure of youth programs. Ask them to send one to you by mail.


3. Faith-based programs. Many churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship have youth programs. You don’t always have to be a member of these organizations to have your child participate in their programs. Check with your place of worship or with faith organizations in your community.


4. National organizations. Many national organizations such as the YMCA, the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America have local chapters and affiliates that offer supervised activities. Find out what’s available in your area.  For a detailed list of some of these organizations, see the resources section in the back of this guide, or log on to the “Your Time—Their Future” Web site at www.ncadi.samhsa.gov/yourtime.


5. Mentoring programs. There’s no substitute for a caring and involved parent, but sometimes another caring adult can make a world of difference in a child’s life. Find out about mentoring programs in your area. A good place to start is with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (www.bbbsa.org or 215-567-7000) or the National Mentoring Partnership (www.mentoring.org or 703-224-2200).


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Additional Resources For Parents:

Drug Facts You Need To Know

Establish Good Communication

Get Involved In Their Life

Make and Enforce Clear Rules

Be A Positive Role Model

Teach Your Child To Choose Friends Wisely


Drug Test By Drug

Home Drug Test

Other Resources:



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