Prevention for Preschoolers

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Prevention for Preschoolers

Children from birth to age 5 are little sponges, soaking up everything around them. Their little brains are creating over 700 new neural connections EVERY SECOND! The development of a healthy brain is not just genetics. Some of the biggest influences are a child's relationships, experiences and environment. As a loving adult figure, you have the power to make a huge influence on your preschooler's development.

Most kids develop a much deeper understanding of how their world works before they go to school. This is also the time where a lot of habits are formed. Whether it's about safety - wearing a helmet or buckling up in the car - or nutrition - starting to understand why certain foods are better - the foundation for healthy habits in all areas is formed. This also means that kids are noticing the choices adults around them are making - someone smoking outside the grocery store or an uncle acting strange at dinner while drinking, for example. So believe it or not, this is a great age to begin laying your foundation for their drug-free life.

Themes of Prevention with Preschoolers

  • Strong Family Relationships (healthy attachments, safe and positive environment, nurture, love, etc.)
  • Promoting and Modeling Self-Care (nutrition, exercise, oral hygiene, healthy use of substances, etc.)
  • Celebrating Decision-Making (empowering their choices and abilities)
  • Outline Boundaries with Safety (wearing seat belts, crossing the street, harmful household products, alcohol, etc.)

Probably one of the hardest things for parents is knowing what to say and how to approach the topic. One of our favorite resources, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, outlines a few example scenarios.

Giving your child a daily vitamin Vitamins help your body grow. You need to take them every day so that you’ll grow up big and strong like Mommy and Daddy—but you should only take what I give you. Too many vitamins can hurt you and make you sick.
Your kids are curious about medicine bottles around the house You should only take medicines that have your name on them or that your doctor has chosen just for you. If you take medicine that belongs to somebody else, it could be dangerous and make you sick.
Your child sees an adult smoking and, since you’ve talked about the dangers of smoking, is confused. Grownups can make their own decisions and sometimes those decisions aren’t the best for their bodies. Sometimes, when someone starts smoking, his or her body feels like it has to have cigarettes—even though it’s not healthy. And that makes it harder for him or her to quit.

Here are more tips for talking to your preschooler:

  • Explain the importance of taking good care of our bodies – eating right, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep. Discuss how good you feel when you take care of yourself — how you can run, jump, play and work for many hours.
  • Celebrate your child’s decision-making skills. Whenever possible, let your child choose what to wear. Even if the clothes don’t quite match, you are reinforcing your child’s ability to make decisions.
  • Turn chores like brushing teeth, putting away toys, wiping up spills, and caring for pets into fun experiences that your child will enjoy. Break the activities down into manageable steps so that your child learns to develop plans.
  • Help your child steer clear of dangerous substances that exist in her immediate world. Point out poisonous and harmful chemicals commonly found in homes, such as bleach, kitchen cleansers and furniture polish. Explain that she should only eat or smell food or a medicine from a doctor that you, a relative or other known caregivers give to her. Also, explain that drugs from the doctor help the person the doctor gives them to but that they can harm someone else.
  • Help your child understand the difference between make-believe and real life. Ask your child what he thinks about a TV program or story. Let your child know about your likes and dislikes. Discuss how violence or bad decisions can hurt people.
  • Turn frustration into a learning opportunity. If a tower of blocks keeps collapsing during a play session, work with your child to find possible solutions to the problem.

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, 2017

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