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My oldest child will enter middle school next fall. I’m anxious about a lot of things- including alcohol, tobacco or other drug use. Can you help?

The transition from elementary to middle school can be challenging for both children and their parents. As the age of first use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs declines, the likelihood that kids will try drugs increases dramatically during this year. Parent’s roles are extremely important at this time, as peers begin to matter more and kids don’t welcome their parent’s presence like they did when they were younger.

Kids not only need, but expect guidance. Research shows that kids interpret limits as love. To help kids make good decisions, it is important that parents:

  • take a firm stand against any form of alcohol, tobacco or other drug use
  • make sure that kids understand the legal consequences of using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
  • continue to talk with them about the reasons they should not smoke, drink or use other drugs, highlighting for them the new scientific information
  • get to know their friends AND their friends’ parents
  • encourage children to get involved in adult-supervised after school activities and sports
  • take advantage of parent volunteer opportunities at school
  • know where they are-always call host parents to confirm activities your child plans to attend
  • practice refusal skills
  • set curfews, consequences and enforce them
  • know what to do if you suspect a problem

Beth Kane Davidson, M.Ed., CAC, Director, Substance Abuse Treatment Center, Suburban Hospital (MD)