How to Talk to Your Kids about Underage Drinking
Some parents feel awkward about talking to their children about underage drinking. This could be because they drank as kids and feel hypocritical for telling their child not to drink. It could be they occasionally drink and feel irresponsible telling their children to “do as I say, not as I do”. They might also think their child “already knows” because he or she learned about drugs and alcohol in school…and besides, why would they listen to their parents? The reality is that teensdo listen to their parents, so start talking.
Time the Conversation
While it’s important to talk to your kids about underage drinking, it’s also important that you time the conversation appropriately. Not only should you pick a time before your child has been exposed to alcohol (according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, some start drinking as early as age 12), you should also select a time when your child is focused and receptive to the dialogue.
While they’re playing a game, about to meet friends, go to bed, or do homework is not a good time to initiate the discussion. Likewise, you should start the conversation when you and your child are getting along.
Plan What You Will Talk About
When the time is right, go for a walk or a drive, so there are fewer interruptions. Turn your phone on silent. Plan the conversation in advance, so you know have an idea of what you want to say and can keep focused on what you need to say if there are unexpected turns in the discussion.
To start the discussion, consider using a movie or TV show your child watched recently where alcohol abuse was covered and ask your child how they felt about it. Likewise, you can be direct. Just say, “Hey, I need to talk to you about something important,” and then let the words flow.
One important thing to do with your children is to be honest. Your child will have questions (did you drink underage?), and you need to be prepared to answer those questions tactfully and honestly. If you did drink underage, this is not the time to glorify any memories of yesteryear. Be honest that you did drink, but draw focus to the major social drawbacks of underage drinking such as
· Alcohol causes drinkers to lose inhibitions and to embarrass themselves in front of others
· People who drink can easily make mistakes like having unprotected sex or getting into car accidents
· Alcohol is addictive; early consumption can lead to lifelong abusive habits
Arm yourself with some statistical knowledge before the discussion; however, don’t let data take the wheel. Kids are more swayed by stories about you or people you know than with data.
Establish Your Expectations
Lastly, you should establish your expectations for drinking underage. Given the many dangers associated with underage drinking (there are over 4,300 deaths among underage drinking youth per year, according to the CDC). Resist the temptation to seem “cool” or like a “friend”. The best policy is one that’s compliant with the law and that enforces a firm no-tolerance stance on underage drinking.
Remember, this is your child, and one drink could be a slippery slope that leads to increased risk of brain damage, accidents, unplanned pregnancy, further drug abuse, and other life-long effects including death.
By talking to your child, you go beyond what any school might do; what’s more you, you show them you care by taking the time to establish expectations, to tell the truth, and to help them see that underage drinking isn’t cool at all.
The Walton County Prevention Coalition is dedicated to preventing Walton County youth from drinking and doing drugs. As a parent, you are the first and most important person in helping your do the right thing. Click to get more resources from the WCPC that can help you talk to our child about underage drinking and just saying ‘no.’