Module 1: Helping Your Children Stay Drug Free





True or False

What is a Drug?

Drug Categories

Reasons Kids Use Drugs

The Risks of Using Drugs

How to Build Healthy Kids

Questions to Think About





Welcome to "Helping Your Children Stay Drug Free," the first interactive module in our "Talk About Drugs” series.


This series was developed by Peel Public Health to help you as parents talk to your children about drugs.


My name is Clair and I’ll be your guide for this module. We will look at basic drug-related information, the risks drugs pose to children and strategies to build healthy families and resilient children.  


As parents, our relationship with our children is one of the main influences on whether or not they will choose to use drugs.


But we also know many other people have an influence over our children. These modules are meant for anyone that cares for and nurtures a child, including parents, caregivers, grandparents, older siblings and others.


It's time to introduce some of the people who will be sharing their insights and experience related to talking about drugs:


Barry, his daughter Kim; Eve and her son Ryan.




A school survey was done and found some eye opening data. Let’s start with a brief quiz on what we found.


True or False: On average, 50% of students report trying their first drink before grade 9. This is True. On average, 50% of students in Peel report trying their first drink before grade 9.


True or False: Children often try their first drink of alcohol because a relative gives it to them. This is True. Children often try their first drink of alcohol because a relative gives it to them.


True or False: 46% of grade 12 students report trying marijuana at least once. This is True. 46% of grade 12 students report trying marijuana at least once.




As parents, the more we know about drugs, the better prepared we will be to talk to our children. So, what is a drug? A drug is a substance, other than food, that changes the way you think, act or feel. Throughout these modules any reference to drugs includes not only illegal drugs, but also alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter drugs not used as intended.


There are three basic drug categories:


·         Depressants, or downers, include drugs like alcohol and opioids, which you know as pain medication. These drugs slow down your central nervous system.

·         Stimulants, or uppers, are drugs like cocaine and tobacco that speed up the central nervous system.

·         Hallucinogens, like marijuana and ecstasy, can change the way you think and feel.




Why do kids start using drugs? To help answer that question, I'll call on the parents and children we met earlier.


Kim: “Lots of kids use drugs to party at birthdays, dances and proms. I know some kids that even try drugs just cause they're bored and want a new experience.”


Eve: “Let's face it - between demands on their time and their changing emotions, our children are under lots of pressure. I know some kids feel they need to take drugs just to cope.”


Ryan: “Some of my friends have tried alcohol because they want to know what it's all about and they think it’s cool.”


Barry: “Just look at what kids are seeing in the media, on TV, the internet or the music they are listening to. The messages they're hearing out there say drugs are cool and a normal thing to do.”




Our children may take drugs for many reasons and if they do, they put themselves at risk in many ways.


Mind: Children's minds and emotions may be affected. They can experience many issues, such as anxiety, depression, memory loss and learning problems. When children use drugs, it can affect the way the brain develops. This can cause changes in the way their brain works that can affect them for the rest of their lives.


Body: When using any drug, youth are at an increased risk of injury, accidents and violence.  Drug use can cause immediate effects like headaches, tiredness, vomiting, and a rapid heartbeat. Over time, drug use can also lead to other diseases like cancer, liver disease and even death.


Relationships: Children’s relationships will often change.  We may notice a complete change in their friends. Children will usually hang out with their friends who have similar values and behaviours. There may be changes in the way they relate to family members. They may not put the same level of effort into their schoolwork or their job. And some may stop attending school completely. They may end up in trouble with the law.




As parents there is a lot we can do to help guide our children to make healthy choices. Let’s look at seven parenting strategies. These are like pieces of a puzzle. Sharing all these pieces with our children will allow them to make healthy choices. It will also help them deal with risky situations. 


The first piece of the puzzle is essential to developing a healthy relationship: Spending time, and ideally, one-on-one time with each of our children where we can give them our undivided attention. Find an activity you both enjoy, like playing a board game, going to the movies or even attending a class together at a community centre.


Eve: “One way I found to make it work for us is to have dinnertime be family time where we enjoy our meal and talk about how the day went.”


Spending time with our children is the best thing we can share with them - and it costs nothing... but our time.


The second piece of the puzzle is setting rules and expectations for your child.  These are important as they help the family as it learns to function together. Remember, it’s never too late to set expectations. Set clear family rules and discuss them as a family. Make sure everyone understands the consequences for breaking the rules. Follow through on consequences. And renegotiate rules and expectations as children mature.


Kim: “Last week, I broke my curfew and when I came home, my dad told me to go to bed and that we'd talk about it in the morning. He sure didn’t forget. He got me up early for a talk and I won’t be going out in the evening for a while. Some kids I know, it seems like their parents just forget or don’t follow through on what they say - so the kids do whatever they want - just to see what they can get away with.”


It is important that children understand how the consequence connects to the family rules and expectations. And they also need to realize that everyone in the family is impacted when they break the rules.

Children like Kim, who grow up with clear expectations and limits, and who experience consistent consequences, are more likely to have the self-confidence to make healthy decisions around drug use. Parenting can be hard work, but keeping consequences simple makes it easier to follow through.


The third piece of the puzzle is family values, which we need to clearly define and share with our children whenever the opportunity arises. Knowing your family values is key, especially with discussion like this:


Kim: “Alyssa’s parents let her have champagne! Why can’t I?”


Barry: “We don’t allow underage drinking… no matter what the occasion.”


Kim: “But it’s no big deal! My friends get to do it.”


Barry: “But you could get sick, hurt or make bad decisions. Alyssa’s mom and dad may have different values in their home. But in our home, we don't serve kids alcohol. You need to respect that value, whether in our house or anyone else's.”


Clearly explain your family values and share them with your children. Remember, it’s important to help your child understand the reasons and principles behind your values. They may not always agree, but at least they will know why your values are important to your family.


The fourth piece of the puzzle is to be a good role model. Children are always watching people around them, and we, as parents, are one of their biggest influences. Think about your own habits and what your children are learning from you. You need to lead by example.


Eve: “My job is pretty high stress so I used to relax with a glass or two of wine after work. A while ago, Ryan asked me:”


Ryan: “Why do you always have to have a glass of wine when you get home?”


Eve: “I enjoy relaxing with a glass of wine after a long day at work.”


Ryan: “So you need to drink to relax?”


Eve: “You know Ryan, that’s a really good question. Maybe I shouldn’t be using alcohol to relax. That’s something I really need to think about.”


Eve: “Ryan’s question really made me stop and think about my drinking habits. I also never thought about how my actions affect my son until he asked me that question.  He really is watching what I do…”


Our children look to us as models for how to behave and react – none of us are perfect but it's never too late to become a better role model for them.


The fifth piece of the puzzle is to give encouragement. It’s important to focus on what kids are doing right, rather than always focusing on what they are doing wrong.  The more we encourage them and let them know we’re proud of them, the better they will feel about themselves


Ryan: “Sometimes I mess up - but my mom doesn't make me feel bad about myself. She just says I can do better and helps me figure out how.”


Children who feel good about themselves are able to stand up for what they believe in and deal with challenges in life.Remember, even when they do make mistakes they still look to us for love, guidance and support.


The sixth piece of the puzzle is to listen and show respect. All children want to be listened to. As kids get older, they also want us to respect their ideas, opinions and choices. It’s important to show that respect in public and at home. But it's not always easy...


Kim: “Dad, I’m talking to you but you’re watching TV.”


Barry: “I can listen and watch the game too.”


Kim: “Forget about it...”


Barry: “OK, Kim. I'll put the game on pause. Tell me what's on your mind...”


Barry: “I sometimes forget that what I may think is unimportant might be incredibly important to Kim. But I know I’ve just got to stop whatever I’m doing and say, ok, I’m here – I mean I’m really here – and I’m listening.”


When we take the time to listen to our children, it demonstrates respect. When we show them respect, it helps build their self-esteem as well as teaches them to respect others, including us as parents.


The seventh and final piece of the puzzle is perhaps the most important - Start talking early and keep the conversation going as our children grow up. Eve started the conversation about good and bad medicine when Ryan was in junior kindergarten - and it's still going on...


Ryan: “C'mon Mom.  Didn’t you smoke up when you were a kid?”


Eve: “If I say yes, you might think that I turned out ok and drugs aren't a big deal. But they are a big deal. If I say no, you might think I don't know anything about drugs.  So, since we're talking about it, what I do know is that I had friends who smoked marijuana and I saw how their grades went down because they couldn’t study.”


Eve: “Ryan knows that he can talk about whatever he wants without anybody getting angry or getting into trouble. That's the way it's always been and it really works for us - even if it's sometimes difficult to do.”


Talking with your children builds trust. The more we talk to them the more comfortable we become and this helps create a positive relationship.


Focusing on each of the seven pieces of the puzzle from an early age will help your children grow up to be caring, adaptable and confident. This will increase their skills to make healthy decisions in their lives.


Each piece is a reminder of the many ways that we are already making a difference in the lives of our children - and how we can offer them strong support.




         Do I spend one on one time with each of my children?

         Do we have family rules? Does everyone in the family know what they are?

         Do I encourage my children to be the best they can be?

         Do I let them know I am proud of them?

         Do I take the time to really listen to my children, both at home and in public?

         Do I talk to my children about drugs?




Please note: If your child or someone you know displays signs of serious drug use, don’t be afraid to seek help. Consider speaking to your family doctor, or visit for a list of community resources.


To learn more visit


Thanks for joining me.  And remember, talk early and talk often.