Drug Prevention: Grades 4 to 6
During the 4th to 6th grade years, friends become vitally important to kids. What children this age do and say is often determined by what their friends do and say. Their self-esteem is also determined in part by acceptance by peers. As a result, some kids are unable to or afraid to make independent decisions and choices. These years are crucial to decisions about the use of alcohol and other drugs. It is not uncommon for sixth graders to be offered beer and cigarettes and to know other children who smoke and drink alcohol. Research shows that the earlier children begin to use alcohol and drugs, the more likely they are to have real trouble.
Although you may feel you aren't being heard over your child's friends, keep talking. Your message—if delivered clearly, consistently, and respectfully—will get through and will stick with your kids.
Tips for Parents
- Make time to talk. Create regular times when you give your child your undivided attention. A walk together, dinner in a quiet place, or a trip to the ice cream parlor after a movie are some ways to make talking together a little easier. Ask what's going on in her life and be a good listener.
- Encourage positive activities. Steer your child toward activities where he'll make new friends and have fun. Sports, Scouts, religious-sponsored youth programs, and community-sponsored youth organizations are great options.
- Promote high self-esteem. Kids in this age group begin to enter puberty, which can be very stressful. Acknowledge and praise your child's many good points on a consistent basis (make sure to be sincere), to help her feel good about herself.
- Set clear rules and enforce them. These rules should relate to curfews and homework as well as no-use rules for alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Research shows that kids are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs if their parents have established a pattern of setting clear rules and consequences for breaking those rules.
- Provide a clear message. Your child will need a clear no-use message, factual information, and strong motivation to resist pressures to try alcohol and other drugs. Since kids are very conscious of their appearance at this age, focus on the effects of drugs on their hair, breath, and skin. Be sure to use facts, not fear, with your kids. If they feel you are lying or exaggerating, they're likely to dismiss your concerns.
- Arm your child with tools to say no. Continue to practice ways to say no with your child; have them role play with you. Offer to pick them up from any uncomfortable situation, and discuss it calmly later.
- Help distinguish real life and fantasy. Kids see a lot of violence and drug use in video games, movies, and TV shows. Be aware of what your child is exposed to and talk to him about out. Ask what he thinks about what is portrayed and be sure he understands the real consequences of these activities.
- Give your child the power to make decisions that go against their peers. You can reinforce this message through small things such as encouraging your child to pick the sneakers she likes rather than the pair her four friends have.
- Make friends with the parents of your child's friends. Together you can reinforce one another's efforts in teaching good, safe behaviors. A neighborhood social gathering, sporting event, or school assembly are good places to meet. Join with other parents in providing supervised activities for young people. This will help to limit free time, which can lead to experimentation with alcohol and drugs.
Partnership for a Drug-Free America
The Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Grades 4-6. Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
Available at: http://www.drugfreeamerica.org/Templates/
Accessed September 18, 2003.
Last reviewed September 2003 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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