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How to Prevent Drug Abuse in Your Preteen

May 10, 2013  |  Falmouth Enterprise

By Dr. Michael Bihari

In a series of articles entitled "How to Prevent Drug Abuse at Every Age," The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (DrugFree.org) provides excellent advice about how to help your children have safe and healthy lives.

It is important to remember that nationally the average age for starting to drink alcohol, smoke marijuana, or abuse prescription pills is between ages 12 and 13!

The following is an edited version of the DrugFree.org section on preteens.

Your 9 to 12 Year Old

Preteens: They're on a quest to figure out their place in the world. When it comes to the way they view that world, they tend to give their friends' opinions a great deal of power while, at the same time, they're starting to question your views and messages.

Your advice may be challenged – but it will be heard and will stay with your child much more than he or she will ever admit.

The following tips may help you help your preteen live a healthy, drug-free life:

Make Sure Your Child Knows Your Rules

And, that you will enforce the consequences if those rules are broken. This applies to no-use rules about marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs – as well as bedtimes, homework, and chores. Research shows that kids are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs if their parents have established a pattern of setting clear rules and consequences for breaking those rules.

Act Out Scenes with Your Child Where People Offer Her Drugs

Kids who don't know what to say or how to get away are more likely to give in to peer pressure. Let her know that she can always use you as an excuse and say: "No, my mom [or dad, grandmother, etc.] will kill me if I smoke pot." Explain why she should not continue to be friends with kids who have offered her marijuana, alcohol or pills.

Tell Your Child What Makes Him So Special

Puberty can upend your child's self- esteem. Feelings of insecurity, doubt and pressure may creep in. Offset those feelings with positive comments about his life and who he is as an individual – and not just when he brings home a good grade on his report card.

Give Your Children the Power to Make Decisions That May Go Against Their Peers

You can reinforce this message through small things such as encouraging your child to pick out the sneakers he likes rather than the pair his four friends have.

Base Drug and Alcohol Messages on Facts, Not Fear

Kids can't argue with facts and they love to learn facts – both run-of-the-mill and truly odd. Provide online resources for them to learn correct information about drugs and alcohol.

Preteens Are Not Concerned with Future Problems

They are not concerned about experimentation with marijuana, alcohol or other drugs. But, they are concerned about their appearance – sometimes to the point of obsession. Tell them about the smelly hair and ashtray breath caused by cigarettes. Make sure they know that it would be hard to perform in the school play while high on marijuana.

Get to Know Your Child's Friends

And, their friends' parents. Check in by phone or a occasionally visit to make sure they are giving their children the same kinds of messages you give your children about alcohol, marijuana and other drugs.

Help Children Separate Reality from Fantasy

Watch TV and movies with your preteen and use the experience to reinforce the distinction between reality and fantasy. Remember to include advertising in your discussions, as those messages often target kids and can be are especially powerful.

Substances in your fourth to sixth grader's world may include: Alcohol, Ritalin, Adderall, Inhalants, Marijuana.


Resource Drug Guide for Over 40 Commonly Abused Drugs: Access a comprehensive and up-to-date source of drug information, including drug descriptions, slang terms, short term- and long term- effects, images, federal classifications and more from the Drug Guide at The Partnership at Drugfree.org.

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