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Tips for Your Elementary School Child
A child this age usually shows increasing interest in the world outside the family and home. Discuss how anything you put in your body that is not food, water or juice can be extremely harmful, and how drugs interfere with the way our bodies work and can make a person very sick or even cause them to die. (Most children of this age have had real-life experiences with the death of a relative or a friend's relative.) Explain the idea of addictionthat drug use can become a very bad habit that is hard to stop. Praise your children for taking good care of their bodies and avoiding things that might harm them.
By the time your children are in third grade, they should understand that:
foods, poisons, medicines and illegal drugs differ;
medicines prescribed by a doctor and administered by a responsible adult may help during illness but can be harmful if misused, and therefore children need to stay away from any unknown substance or container; and
adults may drink in moderation but children may not, even in small amounts because it's harmful to children's developing brains and bodies.
Before leaving elementary school, your children should know:
the immediate effects of alcohol, tobacco and drug use on different parts of the body, including coma and death;
the long-term consequences of drug use, including addiction and loss of control of one's life;
the reasons why drugs are especially dangerous for growing bodies; and
the problems that alcohol and other illegal drugs cause not only to the user, but to the user's family and the world.
Questions elementary school children frequently ask about drugs:
- Why would people want to put bad things in their bodies?
- One answer might be that they might not realize how dangerous the bad things are; another is that they are not taking care of themselves. Sometimes people start using a drug just to see what it feels like, but it can turn into an addiction (like cigarettes) and it's very hard to stop using it.
- Why can't I taste that "grown-up" drink?
- A small amount of alcohol has a much greater negative effect on a child's body than on an adult's; even a small amount can sicken a child.