Teenagers have always done drugs, but the increase in drug availability as well as potency puts today’s youth at a greater risk for addiction than ever before. That’s why it’s important that we talk to our kids about drug use early and often, not because we can protect them from all risk, but because our job as parents is to instill in them the knowledge and wisdom they need to make smart, independent decisions.

Before you start these conversations, though, make sure you’re prepared with age appropriate information and resources to answer any questions your children might have, as well as the willingness to be honest and loving throughout the process. You kids need to know they can trust you every step of the way.

Know That This Is About Love

Most kids won’t realize immediately that having an awkward conversation about drugs and peer pressure is one way that parents express their love. That’s why it may be worth it to preface your talk by making that clear: you’re saying these things because you want your child to have a happy and healthy life and they need to know that drugs are a barrier to that.

Say this every time you have one of these conversations with your kids, because even if they seem to ignore you, they need to hear it. Repeating this message can help lay the foundation you’ll need if your children do get into trouble with drugs – they’ll know that you’ll pursue any and all treatment avenues if they’re willing to trust you.

Start Younger Than You Think You Should

Parents don’t want to acknowledge how young the “don’t do drugs” talk should start, but the truth is the earlier the better. Fit it into other daily lessons about health – we brush our teeth so they don’t get cavities but we don’t smoke so that our lungs don’t get dirty and sick. This destigmatizes the conversation and makes it easier to have as kids get older.

Talk About What Matters To Them

More effective than just talking to your kids about drug abuse is finding ways to fold things that matter to them such as sports, hobbies, and academic interests, into the conversation. Talk to you children about how drugs can damage their bodies so they won’t be able to play basketball or about how it’s hard to be in a romantic relationship when you’re using drugs because you can’t see the impact your addiction has on others.

Whatever it takes to help your kids hear you, that’s what you need to say. When they feel like not using drugs is a decision they’re making for themselves and not because of guilt or because they’re following your rules, they’ll be more likely to stick by their commitment.

Talking to your kids about drugs is so important because addiction can touch anyone, and they need to be prepared. It’s unrealistic to believe that your child will be the exception to this rule. Instead, be proactive and stand with your kids against such peer pressure – in the long run, they’ll appreciate having your support.