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Drug Prevention: Preschoolers

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Drug Prevention: Preschoolers

Drug education may seem unnecessary for preschoolers. However, the attitudes and habits learned early can help children to make good decisions throughout life. Three- and four-year-olds are not ready to learn complex facts about alcohol and other drugs. What they can do is develop self-esteem and a close bond with you, as well as learn important decision-making and problem-solving skills, all of which will help them to refuse alcohol and drugs later.

Tips for Parents of Preschoolers

  • Create a strong bond with your child. Set aside regular times to give your child your full attention. Playing together, reading a book, and taking a walk are special times that help to build strong bonds of trust and affection between you and your child.
  • Alert your child to dangerous substances in her world. Point out harmful substances in your home, such as bleach and furniture polish (also store them out of reach). Read the warning labels to your child. Also explain that not all harmful substances have a warning label and that she shouldn't take any food, drinks, or medicine from anyone other than immediate family members or the doctor.
  • Promote a healthful lifestyle. Model healthful behaviors—eating well, exercising often, and avoiding drugs, cigarettes, and excessive alcohol. Explain why children should put only good things into their bodies in order to stay strong and healthy. Talk about how good it feels to exercise, and do physical activity with your kids.
  • Develop your child's decision-making skills. Allow your child to choose what he'll wear on most days (it's okay if the clothes don't quite match). On some occasions, let your child choose the movie, the meal, or other things for the family. Praise your child for his good decisions.
  • Provide guidelines for good behavior. Teach your child the basic rules of how to get along with other children; model these behaviors, and praise your children for doing them:
    • Play fair
    • Share toys
    • Tell the truth
    • Treat others the way you want them to treat you
  • Encourage your child to follow instructions. For example, cooking and playing simple board games with your child can give practice in following instructions and rules.
  • Help your child solve problems and handle frustration. A tower of blocks that continuously collapses can drive a child to tears. Help your child figure out ways to keep the tower up. Encourage her to come up with ideas and try them. Turning a bad situation into a success reinforces a child's self-confidence.
  • Praise your child. Praise your child when he behaves well and makes good decisions; but be sure to be sincere. This will help to build self-esteem.
  • Help your child separate pretend from real life. Be sure you know what your kids are watching on TV and talk to them about it. Discuss how violence and bad decisions affect people in real life, even though the consequences are often milder on TV.


Partnership for a Drug-Free America

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

National Institute on Drug Abuse


Your preschooler. Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
Available at: http://www.drugfreeamerica.org/Templates/
Accessed September 18, 2003.

Last reviewed September 2003 by ]]>Richard Glickman-Simon, MD]]>

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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