Keeping Kids Mentally Healthy and Drug Free

Talk With Your Child
It's important to establish and maintain good communication with your child. Get into the habit of talking with your child every day. Building a close relationship with her* when she's young will make it easier for her to come to you when she has a problem and will help you become more sensitive to her mood changes. With a closer relationship to you, she'll be less likely to develop mental health problems and to experiment with alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs. In this section, you will find useful communication tips and other important information about mental health, substance use, and prevention.

Get Involved
It really can make a difference when you get involved in your child's life. Young people are much less likely to have mental health and substance use problems when they have positive activities to do and when caring adults are involved in their lives. Your involvement and encouragement tell your child that he* and his activities are worthwhile and may help him identify and pursue positive goals as he gets older. Additionally, you will be better able to see changes in your child that may indicate a problem. This section will give you some ideas about ways to become more involved in your child's life.

Set Rules
Make clear, sensible rules for your child and enforce them with consistency and appropriate consequences. When you do this, you help your child develop daily habits of self-discipline. Following these rules can help protect your child's physical safety and mental well-being, which can lower her risk for substance abuse problems. Some rules, such as "Respect Your Elders," apply to all ages, but many will vary depending on your child's age and level of development. This section offers tips on how to establish expectations for your child's behavior and how to respond when she* doesn't obey.

Be a Role Model
Set a good example for your child. Think about what you say and how you act in front of him. Your child learns social skills and how to deal with stress by listening to and watching you. Do not take part in illegal, unhealthy, or dangerous practices related to alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs or he may believe that, no matter what you say, these practices are OK. Be careful what you say about mental illness and people with mental illness. Careless statements can lead to stigma, discrimination, and a lack of tolerance. This section provides information and tips on being a positive role model for your child.

Teach Kids To Choose Friends Wisely
Support your child's social development. Teach your child how to form positive relationships. Research shows that the pressure to use tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs comes most often from wanting to be accepted, wanting to belong, and wanting to be noticed. Help your child learn what qualities to look for in a friend, and advise him* about what to say if offered harmful substances. Children who have difficulty making friends need your support to avoid being isolated or bullied. This section offers information and tips to support your child's social skills and development at a time when he is making important decisions that will affect his whole life.

Monitor Your Child's Activities
Do you know what your child listens to and reads and how she* spends time with her friends? Talking with your child about her interests opens up an opportunity for you to share your values. And research says that monitoring your child's activities is an important way to lower her chances of getting involved in situations you don't approve of, especially those that can be harmful. Unsupervised children simply have more opportunities to experiment with risky behaviors, including the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs, and they may start substance abuse at earlier ages. In this section, you'll find information and tips to help you monitor your child's activities at home, school, and elsewhere.