The preteen years are when children begin to figure out their place in the world. Friends are becoming an important influence in their lives but many kids are still willing and open to speak to their parents or caregivers about topics like drugs and alcohol. Creating an open conversation about this subject now can set the tone for their teen years and beyond – allowing kids to feel comfortable discussing this subject with you.

Here are some important techniques to remember when speaking with your preteen about alcohol and drugs.

Listen

Listen to their answers. When you start a conversation, be open to all your child's answers. It's important that kids feel they can give an honest opinion rather than what they think you want to hear.

Establish a culture of care. Let them know you are there for them and that you care about their experiences at home and at school.

Build a trusting relationship. While you are still an authority figure, preteens need to know you are also someone they can trust. Listening shows you value their ideas and can be trusted to hear them out without rushing to judgment.

Talk through scenarios. Providing kids with a good example of when they may encounter alcohol or drugs, and peer pressure, can help them think through how to respond.

Help them find a way to say “No". Kids this age can use you as a great reason to avoid alcohol and drugs. “My mom won't let me play basketball if I do," or “my dad will ground me for a month."

Friends are a big part of your children’s lives, so get to know their friends. Talk with your children about their friends and make time to meet them and their parents. Drive your children and their friends to activities to learn more about them. Get their phone numbers, and their parents’ numbers, so you can call if needed.

Promote healthy friendships. “Hanging out” at a friend’s house is fine from time to time, but encourage your child to join clubs, teams, or other activities with their friends. These activities can create healthy friendships and strengthen your children’s ability to make healthy choices.

Effective supervision can be hard as children grow and spend more time outside of your home. They may even resist your efforts as they become more independent. But knowing their schedule, checking in at different times, and talking with other adults in their lives all lead to greater trust.