University of Illinois Extension

Talking to Children about Drugs

Jodi Dworkin, Graduate Student

Teens often say, "I would like to try pot just once to see what it is like." Nearly half of 12- to 15- year-olds want more information about alcohol or drugs. Although most parents say they have talked to their children about alcohol and drugs, kids often don't recall the conversation.

How do you talk with your grandchildren about drugs when the topic makes both of you uncomfortable? Try these tips:

  • Establish a clear family position on drug use.
  • Be prepared by knowing the facts; teens may have a lot of incorrect information they got from other kids.
  • It is okay to say you don't know, but do find the answer.
  • Listen carefully to their concerns and feelings, and respect their views.
  • Let them know it is okay to act independently from the group.
  • Be aware of how you use and talk about drugs - talk about the difference between prescription and illegal drugs.
  • If someone in your family has a problem with drugs, don't try to hide it from your grandkids. Teens know when there is a problem, and they may feel responsible for the substance use.

Even though drugs are illegal, nearly 80 percent of surveyed 10th graders reported marijuana was easy to get, and more than 40 percent said that ecstasy was easy to find.

More than 25 percent of 8th graders have tried at least one drug, and over half of 12th graders have. Only 18 percent of 10th graders believe that trying pot puts them at great risk.

Here are some of the warning signs of a drug problem:

  • Lying.
  • Giving up activities they used to enjoy.
  • Wearing clothes with pictures of drugs or reading magazines on drugs.
  • Getting into trouble with the law.
  • Feeling run-down, depressed, or suicidal.
  • Missing school, poor school performance, or suspension from school for a drug-related incident.

For free information on how to talk with kids about drugs, check out these resources: