Preventing substance abuse

Ways to help your children not abuse alcohol and drugs

Be a good example

Parents are the strongest influence on children. They can use this influence to help their children avoid abusing alcohol and other drugs by modeling moderate drinking behavior and by avoiding the use of illegal drugs.

Help your child feel good about himself or herself

A child who feels positive about himself or herself is more likely to have the self-respect to say "no" to alcohol and other drugs.

Here are eight ways a parent can increase a child’s self-esteem

  1. Give lots of encouragement
  2. Praise effort, not just accomplishments;
  3. Help your child set realistic goals;
  4. Don’t compare your child’s efforts with others;
  5. When correcting, criticize the action, not the child;
  6. Take responsibility for your own negative feelings;
  7. Give your child real and appropriate responsibilities; and
  8. Show your children you love them.

Learn to listen to your child

Children of all ages are more likely to talk to parents who know how to listen - about alcohol, other drugs and other important issues.

Here are five listening skills that parents can use to help them communicate with their children

  1. Restate your child’s comments to show you understand;
  2. Watch your child’s face and body language;
  3. Give nonverbal support and encouragement (a smile, a hug, a wink, a pat, reaching for your child’s hand);
  4. Use the right tone of voice for the answer you are giving;
  5. Use encouraging phrases to show your interest and to keep the conversation going.

Talk with your child about alcohol and other drugs

Television and movies are a major source of information about alcohol and other drugs. Yet, many of the impressions about drinking that kids get from the media are wrong. Get the facts, and emphasize that any use of alcohol and other drugs is dangerous and illegal for children.

Help your child develop strong values

A strong value system concerning personal health can give children the courage to make decisions based on their own value of health rather than peer pressure.

Help your child deal with peer pressure

The following skills will help you to help your child say “no” to alcohol and other drugs:

  • Teach your child to value individuality;
  • Explore the meaning of "friendship" with your child;
  • Give your child the support needed; to say "no;"
  • Know the facts about youth drinking;
  • Use peer pressure in a positive way by encouraging youth groups in which children support each other’s positive values; and
  • Have your child practice saying "no."

Make family agreements that help your child say “No”

Contrary to popular belief, children want structure in their lives. They behave more responsibly when parents set limits. Discuss with your child how you expect him or her to behave and the results of doing or not doing it. Make sure your child knows that under no circumstances is she to experiment with alcohol and other drugs. Family agreements automatically give your child an easy way of saying "no" to peer pressure.

Encourage healthy, creative activities

Support your child’s involvement in school activities, sports, hobbies or music without pressuring your child to always win or excel. Also, do things with your child. The key is togetherness - children appreciate the time parents spend with them, even if it involves doing chores.

Team up with other parents

When parents join together in support groups, they can take broad steps that will reinforce the guidance they provide at home. Your group can raise the issues of alcohol and drug abuse with community organizations like parent teacher organizations, churches, youth groups, health care facilities, etc. You can use your group’s voice to influence school and local government policies that can affect youth alcohol and other drug use.

Know where to go for help

Call your local treatment agency and find out how they work with children and families. Tell your child you will not hesitate to get an alcohol and drug assessment if you think she is having a problem with drugs. If you observe major changes in your child’s moods or behavior that concern you, and if your child is not responsive to your concern, get in touch with a treatment provider and get your child assessed. Problems with alcohol and other drugs don’t just go away. The earlier the intervention, the greater the likelihood of a surer and faster recovery.

Prevention, intervention and treatment resources are available throughout the state. For more information, call your county office of the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services. A list of South Carolina County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Authorities can be found at