Talking to Children About Addiction: An Interactive Lesson Guide for Parents and Teachers to Teach Kids About Drugs and Alcohol

Article written by Chloe Nicosia

Exploring the world is a natural part of growing up. For kids and teens, this can take the form of traveling, learning, and socializing with new and different people. It can also include experimentation with drugs like alcohol or marijuana. Explaining addiction to drugs and understanding addiction is not necessarily an easy conversation to have. Facts can get muddled together with opinions and moral judgments. However, honest and open classroom and home discussions can give students the tools they need to make good decisions for their bodies and their futures, and there are plenty of online resources available to facilitate the conversation and encourage sober living. When it comes to children, answering their questions as they relate to the cause of addiction can help them better understand addiction.

Teaching your kids about what can cause the addiction and determining when family members struggle can help them better understand substance use disorders. Talk to your kids and share personal stories as openly and honestly as possible. Talking to children about addiction at an early age is important as it can make them feel safe in confiding with you if they ever are struggling. Kids and teens are at a vulnerable stage in their lives, so discussing addiction and difficult topics with them can help them open up. When they understand that they cannot blame themselves if they ever do struggle is an important lesson for them to learn.

Lesson Plans and Talking to Your Children About Addiction

Discuss addiction with your kids and teach your kids how to detect addiction when they are confronted with it. Below is a list of helpful resources designed to help you talk to your kids about substance use disorders and addiction. Addiction prevention begins with explaining addiction to children so that they can make informed decisions when it comes to pressure.

  • Collection of Plans for Alcohol and Drug Prevention: Children of different ages process information differently. This page has four different lesson plans for middle school students, each of which asks kids and teens to focus on methods of preventing drug abuse and addiction to a drug or alcohol.
  • Drugs + Your Body – It’s Not Pretty: This lesson plan offers teachers materials that allow them to talk to students about the scientific facts related to substance abuse and drug use. Discussion points are also included to prompt class discussion.
  • Marijuana: Download the Facts (PDF): Facts and opinions can easily be confused, especially if they’re coming from classmates. There are many different worksheets and ideas for conversation in this educational lesson plan for high school students, which focuses on understanding the basics of what marij is and how it works.
  • Drug and Alcohol Prevention: Day 1 (PDF): Misinformation about drugs and alcohol is easily spread. Before starting a lesson, it can be a good idea to find out what students already know (or don’t know) about drugs and alcohol and substance use disorders.
  • It’s Up to Me to Be Drug-Free (PDF):
  • Red Ribbon Week is observed every October and provides a perfect setting to introduce kids and teens to the topic of alcohol and drug abuse prevention. This guide includes lesson plans, but it also has information on Web resources and ideas to get the community involved. When you discuss addiction with students, they can feel more comfortable in talking about an alcohol or drug problem in their life.
  • Prevention Curriculum With Buddy and Betsy (PDF): For young children, understanding how drugs and other medications affect the body is a stepping stone to understanding why these same substances can be dangerous. The worksheets in this guide were designed for use with special-education students but can easily be modified to work with any class.
  • KidsHealth: Alcohol (PDF): Alcohol is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States. KidsHealth has an excellent lesson plan designed to introduce students to what alcohol is, what peer pressure is, and who they can turn to if they need help.
  • What to Know, What to Do, What to Say (PDF): From a guided discussion to a group brainstorming session, this lesson plan includes everything from speaking topics to classroom worksheets. The activity is designed to take half an hour to complete.

These lesson plans are for educational purposes and are designed to help explain addiction and depending on the child’s age, you can tailor what you are going to say. Struggling with addiction is something that kids need to grasp so that they can understand the concept later on in life.

Resources and Materials for Explaining Addiction

  • The Drug Facts: There are many free resources that can be used as supplemental materials. The Foundation for a Drug-Free World has 13 informational booklets available online and in print for free.
  • Intervention E-Book (PDF): Talking to a child or teenager with a drug or alcohol problem can be a tricky task. Addiction treatment is important, but not all cases require rehab. This e-book guides parents and teachers through broaching the topic.
  • Ten Tips for Prevention for Youth: Many drug abuse prevention organizations have resources designed specifically for kids and youth. The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence offers this article with tips to help kids make smart decisions.
  • The Real Cost: Videos: Cigarettes and tobacco can be expensive. However, they cost many teens more than just a few dollars out of their wallets.
  • Alcohol and Public Health Videos: Covering everything from preventing alcohol abuse to recognizing the symptoms of binge drinking, these online videos are a great teaching resource for parents and school administrators.
  • Rise Above: Colorado is the second-worst state for prescription medication abuse by teens. The organization has a large collection of informational videos and resources for parents and teens alike to help bring awareness to this unfortunate trend.
  • Addiction and Recovery Video Gallery: Abuse doesn’t have to end with addiction. There are many different ways to break free, and these videos can help empower both students and adults to help friends get the treatment they need.
  • Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict: Life as a drug addict is not an easy one. The Federal Bureau of Investigation created this documentary detailing the trials and tragedy of a life controlled by opiates.

It’s important to note that children of addicts are more susceptible to addiction. Talking to your child about addiction and how it has personally affected your life as parents can make them able to understand the disease at a young age. Answering their questions and discussing difficult topics can help them feel safe and secure. When a family member struggles, it’s important for them not to blame themselves but rather seek professional help. When we educate kids about addiction, we are instilling a knowledge base in them to open up if they are struggling with addiction.

Where to Get Help If Your Kid is Drinking or Using Drugs

  • Overcoming Addiction: Alcohol or drug addiction is scary for both the addict and those who care about them. It can be treated through a recovery center, and this informative page breaks down some of the stigma associated with addiction as well as parental addiction.
  • Treatment for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (PDF): An alcohol/drug rehab center can be hard to find. This paper explains drug abuse from start to end and provides information on how addiction treatment, including residential treatment and intensive outpatient, is run.
  • Suicide Warning Signs and Crisis Line (PDF): Drugs and alcohol can cloud the mind and make problems seem insurmountable. This handout includes the warning signs of someone who may be considering suicide as well as the number for a 24/7 Suicide Crisis Line.
  • Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help (PDF): Addiction treatment is well within reach. This guide will help determine when to seek treatment and how to find an alcohol/drug rehab center.
  • Substance Abuse and Treatment: A realistic stance on substance abuse; sometimes the facts are not enough to deter people from drinking or using drugs. In the event that you or a friend needs support or assistance or a substance abuse problem, this page provides information on how to find addiction help at an outpatient rehab or other facilities.
  • Choose Your Approach: There’s no one right way to quit drinking. Whether it’s through learning coping techniques or seeking professional help at an alcohol/drug rehab center, this page will help guide individuals toward the method of recovery that works best for them.
  • Thursday’s Child Hotline: No matter whether the issue is related to drugs, alcohol, or mental well-being, this 24/7 hotline is open and available to everyone.
  • Reaching Out for Help With Drug Addiction: Admitting that there’s a problem with alcohol or drugs can be scary and difficult. As this insightful answer from Go Ask Alice! points out, that being brave enough to ask for help is the first step to recovery, and often, friends and family are more than willing to lend their support.

Activities, Games, and Quizzes

  • Create Your Action Plan: This interactive guide is designed for parents and educators. Answering three questions will create a customized Action Plan for engaging a child or teenager in a discussion about drugs and alcohol.
  • Body by Meth: What do methamphetamines do to the human body? This online game allows students to examine the potential consequences of meth firsthand.
  • Mouse Party: This deceptively cute online game explains the effects that drugs have on the brain and how chemicals in the drugs cause these reactions.
  • Stay Clear: Cross Out Drugs! Staying safe and healthy starts with making good decisions. In this game, catch healthy items and avoid getting stuck on drugs.
  • Elk Kids’ Zone: Trivia Game: Styled after the game show Jeopardy!, this online game allows kids to test their knowledge of alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, and statistics on drug abuse.
  • Xperiment: Try out different drugs on an eyeball and see what the effects are. The site also contains facts and first aid resources for drug abuse.
  • Nothing to Rave About: At parties, drugs like Ecstasy may be part of the entertainment. In this interactive mystery series, players can explore the mysterious cause behind a series of hospitalizations. Along the way, they’ll learn about Ecstasy, its effects, and the risks that come with partaking in drugs.
  • Pure Rush: Players in this game must jump over obstacles, including cannabis, to make it to a music concert on time. Hitting cannabis results in a slower motion and foggy sight, making it harder to reach the end goal.
  • Don’t Turn a Night Out Into a Nightmare: It isn’t only one decision that makes a bad night. Often, it’s a lot of small choices that lead to sobriety or drunkenness. This online board game simulates a night out with friends and all of the decisions that can influence a youth along the way.
  • Drug Awareness Knowledge Quiz (PDF): This printable quiz is a great way to see what students already know about drugs and alcohol. The answer sheet is also included for easy grading.

Continuing Education and Other Resources about Addiction Recovery

  • Alcohol: A Photo Novella (PDF): What might a drinking problem look like to outside observers? This photo novella details a struggle with alcohol and provides further resources on what it is and how to get help for an addiction.
  • Understanding Substance Abuse (PDF): Individuals may turn to drugs for many different reasons. Understanding some of these reasons can make a conversation about drug or alcohol abuse easier for both parties.
  • Preventing Drug Abuse Among Children and Adolescents (PDF): Identifying risk factors for drug abuse helps parents and community leaders reduce the chances of children turning to drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers a free guidebook to help identify and apply preventative measures for schools and communities.
  • It’s My Life: Alcohol and Peer Pressure: Resisting peer pressure can be much harder than it sounds, especially if those peers are also close friends. PBS Kids has an excellent site dedicated to teaching children how to be comfortable saying no.
  • Real Life: Help, Healthy Mind, and Research: Designed for middle-school-age children, this website offers hotline links, further information on alcohol, and resources to help combat alcoholism in real life.
  • Combating Peer Pressure: How to Help Your Teen: A positive, open, honest home environment can do more to help prevent alcohol abuse than any campaign could accomplish. Not all parents may be friends with their teenagers, but it is possible to make sure there’s an atmosphere of love, trust, and acceptance.
  • Teens and Alcohol Use: These facts on teen alcohol use highlight the difference in alcohol abuse among teens versus that involving older adults.
  • If Only You Knew What I’m Taking: Legal vs. Illegal Highs (PDF): Some substances used to get high aren’t even designed for human consumption. There are serious health risks associated with ingesting drugs, and it’s important for teens and adults alike to know what they are.

Addiction recovery involves various levels of care including residential treatment and intensive outpatient. Loved ones of addicts are suffering just as much and may need assistance as well. Whether you are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, substance use disorders can be properly managed and overcome. Explaining addiction to children is a vital teachable moment and can provide direction in times of temptation.

WhiteSands is an alcohol and drug rehab in Florida