Teaching your kids about the dangers of using drugs can be some of the hardest conversations to have. Don’t have a panic attack just yet, though. Here are some of these different approaches that you can try out based upon your child’s age.

Ages 8-9

This age is a good time to talk to your kids and find out how much they know. It’s as simple as asking questions and discussing their answers. Have them act out the way they think that people on drugs would walk or talk. You can also show them pictures of what some people look like once they are affected by drugs. This makes it fun while helping them understand the dangers.

Ages 10-11

At around this age, children love science experiments! Vinegar and baking soda is one experiment that is easy and effective. The vinegar represents the fluids that protect the brain. The baking soda is the drugs. Mix the two and explain how the result is similar to the reaction your body has when you put drugs into it.

Ages 12-13

The early teen years are tough. However, you can connect to them by finding a good movie or video that illustrates drug use in some way. Start a conversation and help them understand some good alternatives to drug use. Ask them what they would do instead of taking drugs if they were ever in a situation where such things were presented to them.

Ages 14-15

Now is when the conversation needs to become real, but it still might be difficult to talk to them about it. According to DrugAbuse.gov, people with a mental illness are 4.6 times more likely to use drugs. With the stigma around mental health, few people get help and end up self-medicating. Stop it before it starts and make a family habit of getting a mental health check up every 6 months or at least once a year, depending on your family history. This helps prevent potential drug abuse and provides them with the coping skills to avoid it now and in the future.

Ages 16-17

This is the time when teenagers become more social and more exposed to drugs at events like concerts and parties. This is the time to make sure that your kids know that you are there for them and that they can come to you about anything. This is also a great time for them to pack on some volunteering experience for their college resumes. Take them to homeless shelters or other places open to helpers where people affected by drugs might be. By doing this, you will be exposing them to the consequences of drugs in the long term.

However, if your child has already been exposed to drugs and influenced enough to become addicted, don’t be disheartened. There are resources, like those at Brightside Clinic, that can help them out. Yet, you should definitely make sure that they understand the long-term affect, and so a few trips to the local homeless shelter for some service would still be a valuable experience.

With an addiction rate of around 10 percent, our country has a long way to go in preventing drug use. Talking to our kids is the best place to start. Arm them with knowledge and let them know they can always come to you for help.