Talking to Your Children About Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Researchers saw an increase in child mortality rates for the first time in decades during the height of the pandemic. However, COVID-19 only accounted for one fifth of all child deaths in 2021. The Journal of the American Medical Associated (JAMA) has released a report stating that child mortality rates are continuing to climb – but not because of COVID-19. Instead, firearms and drugs are what are claiming the lives’ of America’s youth – and at an astonishingly high rate.

JAMA reports that child mortality rates increased 11 percent in 2020 and again by 8 percent in 2021. Specifically, injury mortality in children increased 23 percent and homicide rates rose by 39 percent. However, one of the most startling statistics is that drug overdoses more than doubled between 2019-2020.

With drugs such as fentanyl flooding the streets and experimentation with alcohol beginning at younger ages than ever before, children today are facing several scary, life-threatening risks on a daily basis. Therefore, it is critical that parents keep children informed in order to guide them through these times so they can remain as safe as possible. 

How to Talk to Your Children About Drugs and Alcohol

It goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway – parenting is hard. And while of course, parenting can be highly rewarding and fun, it can also be the most difficult job a person can have. In particular, talking to your children about drug and alcohol use, addiction, and overdose can be overwhelming. But, having open, honest conversations about the risks of using drugs or alcohol is absolutely vital in order to equip children with the right tools to keep themselves well.

Consider some of these additional tips on how to talk with your children about drug and alcohol use and addiction.

  • Explain what addiction is. When talking about what addiction is, stick to the science of it. Explain that engaging in the misuse of any type of addictive substance can lead to the development of addiction, as continued use can create structural changes in the brain that make stopping on one’s own extremely difficult. Explain that there is a genetic component to addiction, meaning that the likelihood of developing this disease increases if there are members of the family who have or had an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Also discuss how environmental factors, such as bullying, violence, and exposure to traumatic experiences can increase the risk of misusing addictive substances and becoming addicted to them.
  • Discuss consequences. It is critical to talk about the potential consequences of addiction with your children, primarily because the consequences are what can put them in the most danger. Explain that using drugs or alcohol can cause them to engage in behaviors that they normally wouldn’t, make decisions that could harm themselves or others, and break down the trust and respect they have built between themselves and their friends, family, loved ones, and respected elders such as teachers and law enforcement.
  • Make clear what your values are. All parents can relate to the feeling that whatever they say to their children goes in one ear and out the other; however, try to recall when you were a child/teenager. It is likely that the words your parents used stuck with you and helped serve as your moral compass until you were old enough to follow your own. Even if you feel like your child is not listening, give them the benefit of the doubt. Continually make clear what your expectations are surrounding drug and alcohol use. Ensure that whatever rules you are laying out for your children are rules that you will also follow while in their presence, as leading by example can be the most effective way to guide children.
  • Inform them of what to do if they need help. It is imperative to teach your children what to do if they are pressured to use drugs or alcohol, if they feel unsafe with someone else who may be under the influence, and who to reach out to if they find themselves engaging in substance misuse. Let them know that they can always come to you for help regardless of what they are experiencing, but also inform them of other adults and resources they can reach out to if they aren’t ready to talk with you. Some of these adults and resources can include their pediatrician or therapist, as well informative online websites with more information about drug and alcohol use.

Conversations surrounding drug and alcohol use and addiction are ones that should be had regularly, as doing so helps keep that line of communication open between you and your children and keeps everyone appropriately informed. Remember, though, that these conversations aren’t always as seamless and successful as those on the traditional American sitcom. It is possible that your child is going to struggle with issues such as temptation and the desire to fit in. Your job is to give them as much information as possible, make clear your expectations, and provide them with a place to go when they need help figuring out how to navigate difficult situations that include drugs, alcohol, or other challenging topics.

Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Las Vegas

If drug or alcohol addiction is impacting your life, contact us right now by calling . Our inpatient rehab in Las Vegas offers several levels of addiction treatment that can help address any underlying issues that may be causing one’s continued substance misuse. By reaching out today, we can connect you with one of our rehab admissions navigators who can answer all of your questions, including what to expect from our programming, how to pay for rehab, and using insurance to pay for rehab.

Do not wait any longer. Call us right now to get started on the path towards recovery. 



Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Desert Hope is located in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is easily accessible from most locations in the Southwest. We offer a full continuum of care that spans from inpatient medical detox and rehab to outpatient services and sober living. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs near Vegas or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.