Talking to Your Grade School Child

It’s never too early to start the substance use conversation with your children. Because, whether it’s you or the culture around you— television, games, movies, or books— your child is going to learn about substance use one way or another.

Below are some tips for approaching a substance-use conversation with children between 5-9 years old.

Provide accurate information about drugs and alcohol.

  • Just tell your kids the plain ol’ facts like drinking alcohol before they turn 21 is against the law, and doing drugs is illegal no matter how old they are. And that, yes, marijuana is legal in some states, it’s still not allowed to be consumed by kids their age.
  • Tell them about the short-term effects of drinking and doing drugs; that they can make people throw up, feel bad, or put folks into dangerous situations. Keep these discussions focused on the short-term or present, long-term consequences don’t carry much weight with children this age.
  • Tell your child about the proper uses of medication, both prescription and over the counter. Emphasize the fact that people should only take medications that are given to them by their doctors and according to the directions on the bottle.

Work on problem-solving together.

  • Whether its friends at school, homework, or dealing with forces outside of your child’s control— help them work out long-lasting solutions or coping mechanisms. Be sure to point out that quick fixes or instant gratifications are not long-term solutions. (Even if your child finds an unorthodox solution, this is an opportunity to build your child’s confidence in themselves.)

Ask your child about pop-culture references.

  • If your children consume entertainment, they undoubtedly have seen or heard about alcohol and certain substances. Ask your child about how they feel about what they’ve seen or heard. This will give you some great insight into what they may or may not know, and their feelings about it.


Be clear about your rules and expectations.

  • Studies show that children with parents that are explicit with their expectations and rules and consistently enforce them are less likely to start using alcohol and drugs.

Bonus: Talk to your child’s friends and connect with their parents.

  • Ask parents about the messages that they’re giving their own children about the issues listed above so that you can all be on the same page.

On to Middle School>



Vermont Department of Health

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration