Setting a Healthy Example for Your Kids

From the time they’re born, your children learn how to live in the world by watching and imitating those around them. Remember how easily they picked up expressions, including some you wished they hadn’t? Your kids learn to process what they see, make choices about what to mimic, and decide when to engage in certain behaviours by watching the things you do.

Children are influenced by the world around them. As parents your actions and attitudes have the strongest influence when it comes to challenging decisions, including decisions about using drugs. Setting a good example when using opioids, other prescription medications and even alcohol, can help encourage your children to make healthy choices as they continue to grow and become more independent.

Model How You Want Children to Behave

By making healthy, responsible decisions around your use of all substances - including drugs prescribed by doctors, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, illicit drugs and other medicines, you demonstrate positive behaviour for your children to mimic. This can help them later in life as they grow into teenagers when they may be more influenced by peers.

Try to provide your kids with good examples to follow:

  • Take care of yourself emotionally and physically.
  • Implement a healthy, balanced lifestyle, practice safe behaviours and avoid injury.
  • Follow your prescriptions: stick to the rules on the label to show you respect your medicines, trust your doctor, and cultivate a healthy relationship with drugs.
  • Demonstrate that you know other ways to relieve or manage pain besides using opioids or other substances. Some people manage pain by going for a walk and getting some fresh air or drinking plenty of water. The more equipped children are with strategies to manage pain and other problems, the better able they’ll be at embracing challenges with hope and confidence in their self-care skills.
  • If you feel that you are becoming dependent on opioids or other substances, talk to someone (a doctor or counsellor) who may be able to help you re-establish a healthier relationship with substance use. This shows that you are able to recognize a problem and address it.

Help Kids Make Healthy Decisions

Kids grow up and eventually make their own decisions. By helping them learn how to make healthy decisions now, you can protect them from slipping into unhealthy habits later on. You will also help them to avoid being overly influenced by peers or other adults. Here are some ways to help your children develop positive decisions making processes:

  • Help them think through the reasons that they might choose to follow an example, or not
  • Talk through your own reasons for making the decisions you make and show how you decide on those steps.
  • Limit options to a manageable number when kids are making simple decisions (e.g. would you rather bake muffins, granola bars or banana bread, instead of leaving it open).
  • Sharpen thinking skills by playing what-if scenario games (e.g., what would you do if you won a hundred dollars? Who would you choose to go on vacation with if we could bring someone? What would you do if you were invisible?).
  • Encourage slower thinking about decisions so children don’t jump at the first thing they see (e.g., encourage them to reflect on why they would rather go skating than play cards and what would happen if they made a different choice).
  • Help them reflect on decisions after the event - what was good about their decision? What was not so good?

Did you know?

By modelling healthy, responsible behaviour, you help kids learn how to make good decisions and embrace healthy habits regarding substance use for a lifetime. This is the best protection you can offer!

For More Information

For more information about how to talk to your kids about substance use and overdose, see the following parenting articles:


Last Reviewed: December 2016

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