Talking to Kids About DrinkingAlcohol is one of the most prevalent and socially acceptable drugs in our society. As a result, it affects just about everyone and everything we do. Alcohol is found at sporting events, in television ads, family gatherings, and most restaurants. In fact, most of us see it so often it hardly registers at all. But it’s important to keep in mind that what we’re seeing as adults, our teenage kids see as well. Even if your teenager isn’t showing any signs of alcoholism or getting into risky behaviors, it’s important to talk with them about alcohol. Just like any “sensitive” subject, alcohol can be a tricky and confusing subject to navigate. You don’t necessarily want your kids to think alcohol is a vile and evil thing, nor do you want them to believe you’re accusing them of something when you aren’t. At the same time, parents are the single most crucial factor in determining whether teenagers get involved in drinking and to which extent, so the conversation is vital.
Keep an Open Dialogue Regarding AlcoholOne of the best ways to talk to your kids about alcohol is to not even think of it as a “talk.” As we mentioned earlier, alcohol is a subject which comes up naturally all the time so it can be easy to find an excellent opportunity to share some wisdom with your kids. If there’s an accident involving alcohol in your community, feel free to point out to your child that alcohol can be a hazardous substance. Use these events to illustrate precisely why it’s not legal for young people to drink due to its particularly harmful effects on their undeveloped brains. Once your children understand that alcohol is not a taboo subject, they’re sure to have questions of their own. They might want to know what alcohol does, why people drink it at all, etc. Take the time to answer their questions honestly and openly, stressing to them the long-lasting effects of underage drinking.
Prepare Your ChildrenNo matter how well you raise your children, you can’t watch over them 24/7 and, at some point, they’re going to find themselves in circumstances you might not wish for them. But children who are well-prepared and informed might surprise you with how well they are able to handle situations like peer pressure and drinking. Make sure your kids understand that alcohol might be offered to them at various points in their young life and prepare for such an eventuality. Brainstorm some ideas on how to say “no” and create strategies for getting themselves out of such a situation. Let your kids know that you’ll always come to get them out of a position where people are drinking if they call you and are honest about what’s going on. You want them to feel safe trusting you with situations like this, rather than placing themselves at risk because they’re afraid you’ll be upset with them. You can also prepare them by going through specific scenarios with them. Here are some good prompts to get your kids thinking about drinking and various situations in which they might find themselves: What would you do if the driver of a car you’re in starts drinking, or you find out they’ve been drinking? What if they’re an adult?
- Do you know anybody who drinks a lot? What’s your opinion of them?
- Why do you think people your age try alcohol?
- What do you people your age do at parties? Does it seem fun to you?
- Sometimes people drink at parties to “loosen up.” What could you do besides drinking if you were feeling nervous in a social setting?
- What would you do if you saw someone get so drunk that they passed out or otherwise posed a threat to themselves?