Adolescent Substance Use: What can parents do?

Parents sitting with son on an outdoor bench talking

Youth that engage with substances, including alcohol, marijuana, illegal drugs, and even misuse prescription drugs, are at a high risk of adverse outcomes such as injury, poorer academic performance or school dropout, criminal justice involvement, and even loss of life.

Some youth are at an increased risk for substance use.  So what are parents to do?  Knowing the risks can help parents and caregivers be aware of whether their own child is at risk.  It is important that parents be aware of substances used by youth today, the lingo and hiding place where substances may be stored.  With open and honest communication about risks, parents/caregivers can help protect youth from engaging in risky behaviors and encourage them to make healthy decisions and protect their health now and in the future.

The two-hour program, developed by faculty at Purdue University, provides data, activities, videos, tips and handouts for parents and caregivers of youth.  “Adolescent Substance Use: What can parents do?”  informs parents/caregivers about:

  • Substances teens currently use
  • The risks of addiction and overdose with youth
  • Adolescent characteristics that can contribute to substance use
  • Prevention strategies that work
  • Understand family relationships and peer influences on substance use
  • Links between availability and access to substances
  • Real-life tips on how to leverage strategies and address concerns to help prevent substance use



Co-Parenting for Successful Kids



Co-Parenting for Successful Kids is a research-based and evidence-based education class designed to help families cope with divorce and custody. The goal of the class is to help parents develop plans for respectful, responsive and responsible co-parenting. The program is designed for separating, divorcing or non-married parents. Purdue Extension offers Co-Parenting for Successful Kids in two formats: on-site classes and online. The programs includes: educational presentations, video instruction, activities, and handouts.

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Block Party

Block Party

Block Party events provide an opportunity for parents and their children, ages 8 months to 8 years, to interact and engage in block play. Parents learn how they can help their children develop a variety of school-readiness skills through play with a variety of blocks. Stations set up with a different set of blocks aids children in learning identified skills

Block Party training inform childcare providers on the benefits, research concepts, and foundations for building school-readiness skills in young children during quality block play.


Bridges Out of Poverty



Based on Ruby Payne’s research and programming, this training offers participants key lessons in understanding and working with individuals in poverty.  Trained ‘Bridges’ Purdue Extension facilitators help participants learn about the hidden rules of the middle class and effective tools to help others bridge the gap from poverty to a more sustainable life style.  ‘Bridges’ reaches out to providers and businesses whose daily work connects them with the lives of people in poverty. If your business, agency or organization works with people living in poverty, having a deeper understanding of their challenges and strengths will help you partner with them to create opportunities for success.


ELEVATE – Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level

ELEVATE: Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level Logo

ELEVATE – Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level is a couple’s education program that blends practical skills with an understanding of the physiology of human interaction (the heart-brain-behavior connection) to enhance individuals’ and couples’ healthy relationship knowledge and skills.

ELEVATE can benefit all couples regardless of the cultural background, sexual orientation or relationship status, i.e., dating cohabiting, engaged, or married.  While ELEVATE was developed as a couples program, individuals in a committed relationship can attend without their partner.

The central core content and the framework for ELEVATE are based on the national Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Model, or NERMEM.  The NERMEM model is based on research predictors of marital quality.

The ELEVATE curriculum includes eight lessons: an introduction and seven lessons that review the core principles and skills outlined in NERMEM:

     Empowering yourself;            

     Laying the foundation for a lasting relationship;

     Enlighten each other about your relationship;

     Value and respect the positive aspects of your partner and your relationship;

     Attach to your partner by cultivating and maintaining friendship;

     Taming differences in healthy and safe ways; and

     Engage social support and sources of meaning. 

Two distinct characteristics of the ELEVATE curriculum are: (1) the practical strategies and tools taught, and (2) the inclusion of mindfulness practice activities that can help couples regulate their heart-brain response to stressful triggers.  ELEVATE your relationship to the next level!



HERO’S Story Time

HERO'S Story Time - Helping


HERO’S is an acronym that stands for Helping Every child Reach Optimum Success. This reading program is dedicated to empowering children with social-emotional skills to help cultivate healthy relationships that will enable them to succeed in school and life. Eight storybooks for preschool-age children have been specifically chosen to cultivate healthy relationships based on eight of the 40 Developmental Assets from Search Institute. The more assets a child develops, the more empowered they are to face adversity and challenges. The goal is to provide children with safe, secure, nurturing relationships and environments. HERO’S helps young children grasp assets such as empathy self-regulation, self-esteem, conflict resolution, and interpersonal skills. Cultivating these assets enable children to make wise decisions, choose positive paths, and grow up to be caring and responsible. Research tells us that Developmental Assets are one of the most effective protective factors in preventing high-risk behaviors including violence and substance abuse as well as victimization.

The 90-minute training program shares information about the Developmental Assets and creating safe, nurturing relationships and environments. The training is developed for early childhood providers and those that are major stakeholders in the lives of young children. Participants also gain practice in using the storybooks and support materials.

A guide for each book assists early childhood staff in asking children questions during the story reading and provides extended learning activities to emphasize the assets during the day. Corresponding family newsletter with each book foster further practice and development of the assets at home. The guides and newsletters are available for free download from the Purdue Education Store as publications HHS-847.


I Am Moving, I Am Learning



I Am Moving, I Am Learning (IMIL) is a fun, active training for caregivers of young children (birth to 5 years) to encourage children’s movement and healthy food choices each day.

This training is available for child care providers, parents, or other caregivers of young children to encourage the  use of movement activities to support children’s healthy development. Children can engage in fun physical activities, both indoors and outdoors, as they learn about being active and eating healthy, nutritious food. 


Parenting Counts


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Developed by Talaris Institute, this research-based curriculum supports parents and caregivers in raising socially and emotionally healthy children.

Lessons feature contemporary videos and easy-to-use tip sheets for those providing care to children ages birth to age 5. 

Topics include:

  • The basics of child development
  • Literacy and school readiness
  • Stress management
  • Communication
  • Social and emotional competency


Parenting Piece by Piece


Parenting Piece-by-Piece is a series of eight parenting education sessions designed for use with parents who have been mandated or encouraged to attend parenting training due to risk of child abuse and/or neglect.
The current curriculum also includes guidelines for adapting the program for use with incarcerated parents or with the caregivers of children whose parents have lost custody.

Curriculum handouts are also available in Spanish.


Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14


Parents want to protect their children, but it’s challenging. Youth need skills to help them resist the peer pressure that leads to risky behaviors. Research shows that protective parenting improves family relationships and decreases the level of family conflict, contributing to lower levels of substance use.

Purdue Extension offers the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 in multiple locations throughout the state. The World Health Organization named this program the #1 program out of 6,000 programs analyzed for long-term effects on substance use and misuse.

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Tinker Thinking in Stem:

Children’s Engineering Play

Image of tree representing technology, engineering, science and mathematics.

Children are natural engineers! Each scientist technician, engineer, and mathematician began learning their skills in childhood, through experiences, hands-on learning, opportunities to engage in problem solving, and by participating in creative play.

Purdue Extension’s program on early childhood engineering skills development has two focuses: material properties and attributes of loose parts, and solving problems. Participants learn how to encourage and engage children in the engineering play behaviors identified and developed at Purdue University by researchers in the departments of Human Development and Family Studies, and Engineering Education. Adults caring for children also learn how to provide responsive facilitation to encourage engineering play.


Train Your Brain:

Nutrition, Neurobics, and Notable Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy

Train Your Brain Image

Brain disease is one of the biggest health crises facing the world today. The prevalence of dementia is increasing as our population increases. By adopting multiple healthy lifestyle choices, adults may decrease their risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Through this interactive program, participants will become aware of the incidence of dementia, understand the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, and the benefits of early detection and diagnosis. Learn steps you can take to better your own brain health by adopting a brain healthy lifestyle.