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What to Say to Your 9 to 12 Year Old

Real People: Smiling African American Little Boy Arms Crossed

Conversations are one of the most powerful tools parents can use to connect with — and protect — their kids.  But, when tackling some of life’s tougher topics, especially those about drugs and alcohol, just figuring out what to say can be a challenge. The following scripts will help you get conversations going with your 9 to 12 year old child.

Scenario
Your child is just starting middle school and you know that eventually, he will be offered drugs and alcohol.

What to Say
There are a lot of changes ahead of you in middle school. I know we talked about drinking and drugs when you were younger, but now is when they’re probably going to be an issue. I’m guessing you’ll at least hear about kids who are experimenting, if not find yourself some place where kids are doing stuff that is risky. I just want you to remember that I’m here for you and the best thing you can do is just talk to me about the stuff you hear or see. Don’t think there’s anything I can’t handle or that you can’t talk about with me, okay?

Scenario
You find out that kids are selling prescription drugs at your child’s school. Your child hasn’t mentioned it and you want to get the conversation about it started.

What to Say
Hey, you probably know that parents talk to each other and find things out about what’s going on at school… I heard there are kids selling pills – prescriptions that either they are taking or someone in their family takes. Have you heard about kids doing this?

Scenario
Your child’s favorite celebrity—the one he or she really looks up to—has been named in a drug scandal.

What to Say
I think it must be really difficult to live a celebrity life and stay away from that stuff. Being in the public eye puts a ton of pressure on people, and many turn to drugs because they think drugs will relieve that stress. But a lot of famous people manage to stay clean – like [name others who don’t do drugs] – and hopefully this incident is going to help [name of celebrity] straighten out his life. Of course, people make mistakes – the real measure of a person is how accountable he is when he messes up. It will be interesting to see how he turns out, won’t it?

The thing is, when a person uses drugs and alcohol—especially a kid because he’s still growing—it changes how his brain works and makes him do really stupid things. Most people who use drugs and alcohol need a lot of help to get better. I hope [name] has a good doctor and friends and family members to help him/her.