At the Alcohol and Drug Foundation we believe that the best way to protect children from developing alcohol and other drug problems in their teenage years and later in life is to embed healthy attitudes early on. As with everything we do, this is supported by evidence.
Role modelling is a critical factor in the relationship children develop with substances. By observing the behaviour of parents and other adults, children learn what is expected of them and that understanding will often remain with them throughout their life.
Children can’t help but notice whether and how their parents drink alcohol, use medications, smoke, and perhaps use illegal drugs. They will be given medication by a parent, so they are taught in the home how and why to seek assistance from drugs. Seeing positive behaviour by people they respect is an important step, and becomes increasingly important as they grow and reach adolescence and adulthood.
A trusting and open relationship with your child (of any age) is the best tool for protecting them against unhealthy use of alcohol and drugs. Honest and open dialogue helps your child feel connected and supported by their family and encourages them to raise questions or concerns they have with you.
Having positive relationships with parents, family members and other role models, as well as being engaged in education and positive recreational pursuits in their school or community environment, all help to promote young people’s emotional, mental and physical health.
Parents can also assist by helping children understand how to respond to peer pressure, and supporting them to navigate stress. Education around the effects of drugs and safe partying can help to minimise harms if and when young people choose to consume alcohol or drugs.
Being proactive as early as possible is the best way to prevent issues developing.