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How to Parent Up

Even if it doesn’t feel like it some days, your parenting makes a big difference in the life of your child.  The rules you set, the relationships you build, and the conversations you have about substance use impact the decisions your kids make.  Teens who learn about the risks of marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs from their parents (and know their parents’ no-use expectations) are HALF as likely to ever use these drugs compared to their peers. Parent Up encourages you to use the power of your influence to prevent youth substance use!

In order to protect your child from substance use, Parent Up encourages parents to CARE, CONNECT, COMMUNICATE and pay CAREFUL ATTENTION.  This strategy is no guarantee, but if implemented consistently and with intention, the likelihood of your child engaging in substance use is much lower.


Educate yourself and others about the harmful effects of substance use on the developing brain and make it a priority to protect your child from engaging in any substance use.  Start early and talk often to let your child know you care about their health and safety, and that you are speaking from a place of concern, love, and support.  Of all Americans struggling with addiction, 90% of them started using substances in their teen years, so it’s important to take early action to keep your child drug-free.

Care Action Steps:

  • Learn more about how your child’s brain develops into their mid-20s and how substance use can interfere with this critical development on our Why Parent Up? page.
  • Get the facts about the substances that are most used by teens.  The more you know, the more you can prevent. Visit our Parent Up Drug Topics page.
  • Check out the data in your Missouri county and see which substances are being used the most by teens.
  • Follow your local prevention coalition on Facebook to learn more about current trends and local programs.  Find your local coalition by visiting the Northland Coalition’s website.
  • Review the risk factors that increase the risk of addiction and use this information to inform how you protect your child.  Build protective factors where you can.


Connection is key to prevention.  Kids that have stable, consistent, and healthy relationships with adults are more likely to make safer decisions and live healthier lives.  It’s important that parents, and other caring adults, take time to listen, pay attention, spend time, and follow up with the kids in their lives. When kids feel valued, they better understand their feelings and are more willing to listen to you.

Connect Action Steps:

  • This TED Talk explores practical ideas for anyone who wants to create connections with kids.
  • Meaningful Meals Kit: Kids who have meals with their family on a regular basis are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, including substance use! Our Tools page here at Parent Up has a great kit with tools, tips, and resources to help parents make meals more meaningful with their kids and teens.  Utilizing this kit can help you maximize the benefits of regular family meals, which includes reducing the likelihood of underage drinking, marijuana use, vaping, and prescription drug misuse!
  • Set aside regular one-on-one time with your child to bond and have fun together.
  • Brainstorm together to identify healthy ways to manage the stress in their life (like getting more sleep, going outdoors, having “unplugged” time from the internet, etc.). Be open to your child’s suggestions and help them think through some ideas.


Make it clear to your child that you don’t approve of them using alcohol, marijuana, vapes, or misusing prescription drugs, but be curious and open-minded about their experiences.  Ask them questions about what they think about these substances.  Ask them what they know or what they’ve heard about them.  It’s more important – and effective– to listen and discuss rather than to lecture.  Resist interrogating or threatening your child.  You are building a foundation for a relationship with your child that is honest, trusting, and open, which is an important protective factor to safeguard your child.

Communicate Action Steps:

Careful Attention

Know where your kids are at, who they are with, and be sure to check in when they get home.  Watch for any early signs or symptoms of any substance use and be on alert for changes in behaviors, friend groups, or attitudes.  Learn more about the drugs most used by teens and their warning signs by checking out our Parent Up Drug Topics page.

Careful Attention Action Steps:

  • Secure substances in your home.  Lock up and monitor your prescription drugs and alcohol.
  • Find out where, what, and who your child will be with when they go out.  Set a curfew and check in when your child gets home.  
  • Watch for the early signs and symptoms of substance use and take action if you suspect that your child is engaging.
  • Build your skills in communication and setting limits through this free course.

Worried your child may be using drugs?

The more you know, the more you can prevent.

Visit our Parent Up Drug Topics page to learn more about the most commonly used drugs by teens, and what you can do to prevent your child from using them.

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