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  • Writer's pictureEmily Stewart

Promote strong relationships. Talk with your child in a way that resonates.

One of the most important factors in healthy child development is a strong, open relationship with a parent or trusted caregiver. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has initiated the “Talk. They Hear You.” campaign. The intent of the campaign is to provide guidance, information, and materials for parents and caregivers to use when talking with kids about the risks of underage drinking and substance use—in a way that resonates with the kids.

To help begin the conversation, SAMHSA created five goals to keep in mind when talking to kids about alcohol and drugs:

  1. Show you disapprove of underage drinking and other drug misuse. More than 80 percent of people ages 10-18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision whether or not to drink.

  2. Show you care about your child’s health, wellness, and success. Young people are more likely to listen when they know you’re on their side. Reinforce why you don’t want them to drink or use drugs, emphasizing that you want your child to be happy and safe. The conversation will go much better if you’re open and show concern.

  3. Show you’re a good source of information. You want your child to make informed decisions about alcohol and drugs with reliable information about their dangers. You don’t want them to learn from unreliable sources.

  4. Show you’re paying attention and you’ll discourage risky behaviors. Show you’re aware of what your child is up to, as young people are more likely to drink or use drugs if they think no one will notice. Do this in a subtle way, without prying.

  5. Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking and drug use. Having a plan to avoid alcohol and drug use can help children make better choices. Talk with your child about what they would do if faced with a decision about alcohol and drugs, such as texting a code word to a family member or practicing how they’ll say, “no thanks.”

Keep the discussion low-key. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get everything across in one talk. Plan to have many short talks.

To learn more about “Talk. They Hear You.”, visit or download the mobile app on the App Store, Google Play, or the Microsoft Store.

Watch this quick video to learn more about the app and see how it works:

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