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How to Prevent Drug Abuse in Your 5- To 8-Year-Old

May 24, 2013  |  Falmouth Enterprise

By Dr. Michael Bihari

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

Nationally the average age for starting to drink alcohol, smoke marijuana, or abuse prescription pills is between ages 12 and 13, so, it’s never too early to be prepared.

The following is an edited version of the DrugFree.org section on 5 to 8 year olds.

Your 5 to 8 Year Old

5-to-8-year olds are tied to their family and eager to please but they are also beginning to explore their individuality.  Your grade-schooler is spending more time at school and with peers and is acquiring information (including messages about drugs and alcohol) from places such as the media and popular culture. 

Of all the voices your child hears, yours should be the guiding force.

The following tips may help you help your 5 to 8 year old live a healthy life:

Keep your discussions about tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs factual and focused on the present. Long-term consequences are too distant to have any meaning. Let your child know that people who drink too much alcohol get sick and throw up, or that smoking makes clothes stink and causes bad breath.

Talk to your kids about the drug or alcohol related messages they see or hear through advertisements, the news media and entertainment sources. Some TV shows or movies glamorize drug and alcohol use. Ask your kids how they feel about the things they've heard — you'll learn a great deal about what they're thinking.

Consider the following topics when discussing drugs with your child: what alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are like; why drugs are illegal; what harm drugs can do to users. You should also consider talking about the differences between the medicinal uses and illegal uses of drugs, and how drugs can impact the families and friends of users.

Set clear rules and behave the way you want your kids to behave. Tell them the reasons for your rules. If you use tobacco or alcohol, be mindful of the message you are sending to your children.

Work on problem solving by focusing on the types of problems your kids may come across. Help your child find long-lasting solutions to homework trouble, a fight with a friend, or in dealing with a bully. 

Give your kids the power to escape from situations that make them feel bad. Make sure they know that they should not stay in a place that makes them feel uncomfortable or bad about themselves. Also let them know that they don't need to stick with friends who don't support them.

Get to know your child's friends — and their friends' parents. Check in by phone or a visit to make sure they are giving their children the same kinds of messages you give your children.

Sign your kids up with community groups or programs that emphasize the positive impact of a healthy lifestyle. Your drug-free messages will be reinforced — and your kids will have fun, stay active and develop healthy friendships.

Substances in your K-3 child's world may include: Tobacco, Alcohol, Ritalin, Adderall.


Drug Guide for over 40 commonly abused drugs: The Drug Guide at The Partnership at Drugfree.org is 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.

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