Ages 5 to 8
As children enter school and spend more time around their peers, they become more influenced by the media and world around them. They're open now to new ideas and messages but definitely need your help to make sense of all this information. Between the ages of 5 and 8:
- Let your child know how you feel about tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. Keep your discussions factual and focused on the present. (Future consequences are too distant to have any meaning.) Let them know, for instance, that being high on alcohol or drugs makes it harder to play ball, finish a puzzle, or do other things they enjoy, and that smoking causes bad breath.
- Talk to your child about drug-related messages in the media. Some TV shows, movies, music videos, and ads glamorize the use of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs. Ask your child whether these vehicles make drugs seem cool and acceptable, or whether they also show their downside. Encourage your child to ask questions or share concerns about the things he's seeing and hearing.
- Set clear family rules about drug use, and examine your own actions. Tell children why you don't want them to take drugs, smoke, or drink. And always try to be a good role model. Your actions speak louder than words.
- Help kids build problem-solving skills. If your child is having trouble with homework, a friendship, or a bully at school, help her pinpoint the problem and find long-term solutions. Point out that "quick fixes" don't work. If it's hard for your child to have a one-on-one conversation with you, have her paint or draw a picture, write a story, or send an e-mail to a trusted friend or relative.
- Get to know your child's friends and their parents. Check in by phone or visit every once in a while to make sure that these families share the same values as you do about tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. (This is a good rule to follow when your child gets older as well.)