Many parents wait till high school to talk to their kids about alcohol and drugs, but Monroe suggests starting earlier.
"Because the average age of first use is 12 years old, parents should start talking when their child is 8 to 10 years old," Monroe says. "It's better to be prepared about this topic and educate them early instead of facing the consequences."
Of course, talking to kids at such a young age could be awkward. Monroe says parents should relax and approach the talk as "a conversation and not a lecture." One way to make the conversation feel more natural is to use news coverage or pop culture events as a starting point. Monroe also suggests parents take a backseat and let the child control the conversation.
"Encourage the conversation by asking open-ended questions and listening without interruptions," Monroe says. He also stresses the importance of keeping your emotions in check. Showing anger or disappointment at something your child says could prevent them from being honest with you in the future.
Don't assume one conversation is all it takes to scare your kid straight, so to speak. It is important for your child to know that you are there to talk whenever he may need you.
"A kid should feel like his parents are there to help him," Monroe says. "Having an open line of communication also prevents kids from hiding their experiences from parents for fear of being punished."