Family Handbook

A show of hands: How many of us wish we had more support and advice to help our kids grow as thoughtful, caring, healthy individuals? You can’t see the other parents or caregivers reading this right now, but every hand is up. You are not alone. We’re all in this together.


What is really important is taking the time to connect as parents/caregivers, so we can talk about the challenges we face, and successes. Together we can grow and strengthen each other by sharing what’s worked and what hasn’t.

Our goal with this website is to support parents/ caregivers by providing suggestions, tips, and resources when you need them most. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some extra support, we have included contact information for resources and connections to local services if you need it.

Prevention 101: Know What Works

Fostering healthy family communication by spending quality time together.

Supporting kids in understanding emotions; the good, the bad, and the ugly & learning coping skills.

Working closely with their school as a partner & instilling commitment to learning.

Having consistent boundaries & clear expectations & talking to your kids about drugs & alcohol.

Participating in activities like team sports or performing arts.

Access to quality mental health care.

Take Time to Connect

Our time is one thing kids really want, but it does mean slowing things down. Family time builds strong bonds and it shows.

Set aside ten or fifteen minutes a day to talk and ditch all of the distractions.

Just hang out, have some fun, be silly, talk about life and their dreams.

Plan special family meals, with fun themes, or random celebrations.

Plan regular family time to play games, music, make art, walk, hike, fish or swim.

Healthy Communication

During the tween and teen years conflict will happen as kids go through many changes; physically, emotionally, and socially. Sometimes it hurts us to see them struggling and we want to solve things for them when that is not what they need or even want. Here’s what works:

Support your kid in finding ways to take risks that are positive and healthy.

Listen for understanding, when they are upset.

Validate and accept their feelings, avoid lecturing, and only give advice when asked.

Check yourself, try to respond calmly, and take a few deep breaths.

Help them learn how to express their needs and feelings in constructive ways.

Rules and Expectations

Positive discipline is a powerful tool for teaching kids. They love positive feedback and it helps them to correct and change their behavior. Explaining why you have the “rules” helps kids to feel and be safe. Expectations provide them with healthy guidelines and boundaries. Here’s what works:

Show Appreciation: Say thanks, or write little thank you notes when you noticed them being helpful, cooperative or kind or caring to others. It helps to be specific.

Acknowledge Effort: Let them know when you see them trying to do better, it means alot to them, and it can motivate them to try harder.

Logical Consequences: Have kids take full responsibility for their actions. And kids learn so much when they experience consequences.

Kids’ Rules: Invite your kids to be part of making rules for the whole family. This allows them some wiggle room to help set their own rules, and it will show that you trust them.

Right vs.Wrong: It really helps when we focus on what we want them to do rather than what they did wrong.

Kids and Responsibility

Kids can thrive when given age-appropriate responsibility.

Have them choose the
chores they can live with.
It teaches them that your
family works best when
you work together.

Kids could make their bed, set the table, feed the dog, take out the trash/recycling.

Have them make up a schedule to balance, home, school and activities.

Take turns shopping for
and cooking each other’s
favorite family meal.

Help your kid learn some
real-life skills by having
them open a bank

Allow age-appropriate decisions about school, activities, and what they wear.

Tween and Teen Brain

Kids’ brains are changing fast and “under heavy construction,” especially during the tween and teen years. They are building the brains they will have for the rest of their lives. Here are some ways to will help:

Help them find ways to find positive risk-taking like new skills, projects, or passions.

Give them age-appropriate freedom and supervision.

Make sure they get enough sleep, stick to
regular routines, family meals etc.

Keep track of their stress level and help them learn how to de-stress and cope.

Avoid criticizing their choices of self-expression.

Lovingly remind them of your expectations
and rules consistently.

Talking About Alcohol and Other Drugs

Start the conversation about alcohol and other drugs early. Kids see it on TV, social media, at school, in their neighborhoods and sometimes close to home. Be honest, curious, and matter-of-fact.

Ask for their opinions and thoughts about
alcohol and other drugs.

Talk with our kids early and often, listen closely.

Ask open-ended questions to better understand what they’re thinking.

Create the space for them to share their feelings, fears, concerns or curiosity.

Use events in the media or things on social media a conversation starters.

Explain that trauma, stress, anxiety, emotional pain or depression are the root
causes of addiction.

When to be Concerned that Our Kids are Experimenting or Using

Working to know and understand our kids helps us recognize the difference between normal, behavioral growth and sudden, dramatic change. Sudden, dramatic change could be a sign that your kid is using alcohol or other drugs.

What to look for:

  • Using gum, perfume, or cologne to hide the smell of substance use, or Visine to cover up red eyes. Avoiding eye contact.
  • Physical changes, obvious changes to skin health, change in diet, noticeable weight
    gain or weight loss.
  • Randomly disappearing for long periods of time, to unknown places, for unknown
    reasons. Breaking curfew.
  • Lying about where they have been or who they were with.
  • Become secretive, whispering on the phone, sneaking off to text, locking doors or
  • Alcohol, substances, medications or pills going missing from home cupboards or medicine cabinets.

Know the Facts

Working to know and understand our kids helps us recognize the difference between normal, behavioral growth and sudden, dramatic change. Sudden, dramatic change could be a sign that your kid is using alcohol or other drugs.

Most kids do not use drugs but it’s
important to not to assume your kid

Alcohol is part of many celebrations,
and is easy to access.

Rx drugs are in most of our homes,
they’re easy to get and easy to share.

Kids share: Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta etc; they are dangerous and highly addictive.

Kids have started drinking earlier: the average age now is 14, and most addictions start by the age of 18!

  • Today’s teens who do drink, binge drink to the point of passing out.
  • Marijuana: Most people don’t know that kids can become dependent.
  • Kids who smoke/vape marijuana often think it helps with stress or anxiety.
  • Marijuana use is connected to psychosis, depression, panic attacks, and suicide.
  • If your kid is using one substance, they’re probably using others.
  • Because the teen brain is being rewired, it can become easily addicted.

When Things Get Tough: Stay Connected

When things get hard with your kid, it’s more important than ever to find
ways to stay connected with them. Here are some tips:

Pay extra attention to
your kid when they are

Plan special time doing the things they love to do.

Try to keep them grounded at home and stick to routines.

When you see your kid succeed, acknowledge it and ask them what helped.

Listen to the story of a person in recovery. Encourage kids to ask questions.

Ask for Help and Advice

Drug use can lead to addiction which is a disease that should not come with shame or guilt. Addressing it early will make a big difference. There are many supports available to your kid and for you.

Schools have counselors and medical staff that can offer
confidential support.

Talk to a trusted friend or family member.

Local Prevention Coalitions can provide judgment-free advice and referrals to services and support groups.

Local mental health provider or private therapist. Same day mental health access through Health Care & Rehabilitation Services: (855) 220-9428.

Reach out to your local Recovery Center: Turning Point of Windham County
(802) 257- 5600) and Turning Point of Springfield (802) 885-4668.

Free and confidential alcohol and drug support and referral services at VT Helplink – – (802) 565-LINK.