One of the biggest challenges for parents in talking to their kids about drugs and alcohol is overcoming the idea that this topic is a taboo or forbidden subject. Many parents fear that somehow broaching the subject might actually promote a child to experiment or utilize drugs or alcohol. Parents also are concerned that their child will clam up and they won't be willing to talk about this "taboo" subject.
I've always coached parents to start talking with their kids as early as possible about the subjects that would otherwise be considered taboo or off limit subjects. I even encouraging parents to start talking to their children before they become teenagers. The truth is, the earlier you start talking to your pre-teens (11 or 12 year old) the better it will be for them in the long run. So start initiating that conversation as early as possible.
One way to get the conversation going with your pre-teen is by taking advantage of a TV show or movie that might have a scene with drugs and alcohol. Use the show you just watched as a springboard to talk about drinking or drug use. Refer to the people in the scene as examples of how they should or should not act.
Certainly, once your kids are teenagers and starting High School you have to get in there and have those hard conversations, it's non-negotiable at that point. But I encourage us all to create a standard, a family norm, a value that says "here are the things that we are willing to talk about. Here are the topics we are going to address as a family because they could have a detrimental impact on our lives later on." Healthy families are able to have open dialog about these important issues so that they become commonplace topics and are no longer taboo subjects to talk about with our kids.
The hope is that as early as possible you can establish a open communication pattern that says "we are a family that is not going to have taboo subjects. We are a family that is willing to talk about things that are otherwise challenging, otherwise compromising scenarios, and we will discuss the things that may potentially be destructive to a family." It is important to recognize and establish that talking about alcohol and drugs are no longer going to be taboo topics.