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The Power of a Grandparent
Grandparents can be a powerful influence in the lives of their grandchildren. Grandparents are often people that a child respects and admires and does not want to disappoint; they are looked up to and their opinions are valued.

Because of this, you have many opportunities to provide support and guidance on a variety of issues- including the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

You are not alone. According to an AARP survey, 44 percent of grandparents see a grandchild each week; 45 percent of grandparents talk once weekly (or more often) with their grandchildren; and approximately 54 percent of grandparents want guidance on how to discuss sensitive topics, like drug, with their grandchildren.

From early childhood on, children are presented with a confusing picture of the world when it comes to drugs: some drugs are legal at certain ages (alcohol and tobacco); some are “medicines”; others are illegal.

A grandparent, among other things, can help reinforce the no-use messages their grandchildren hear from parents and school’ they can help support a grandchild’s decision not to use drugs; and they can help sort out all the information their grandchildren see and hear about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Once is not enough
Talking with children about illegal drugs is not as difficult as most people think. But it is not as simple as delivering one message (“Don’t do drugs.”). As kids age, their attitudes about drugs become more and more sophisticated.

While young children tend to view drugs in simple terms (“good” vs. “bad”), pre-teens and teenagers come to understand that not all drugs are the same. Drug-related attitudes and a child’s perception of the risk of taking a drug have a direct influence on decisions to use drugs, and are influenced by a wide variety of factors: age, gender, peer and family influences, among others. The messages and warnings parents use with children when they’re young will not work with children as they grow into adolescents. This is also true of grandparents. It is important that the grandparent’s message “grows” with the grandchild.

Ongoing communication with children about drugs is critical. As their attitudes about drugs change, kids need guidance and advice from their parents and grandparents. That’s why one-time conversations about drugs will not do the job.