How to Talk With Your Teenager About Underage Drinking
Are you glamorizing drinking?
By Nancy Lozano-Stecyk, Child Therapist & Founder, Let's Play Parents
Wondering how and when to talk with your kids about the dangers of underage drinking?
The time is now.
It’s never too early to start. Research shows that parents have the greatest influence on their children’s choice to not drink alcohol. However, parental involvement and conversation needs to start before your child begins to drink alcohol.
Having the talk with your child doesn’t mean you do it all at once. It’s a process. It begins early on in your child’s life. This is done by establishing a loving, trusting parent-child relationship, role modeling appropriate behaviors and attitudes surrounding alcohol consumption. Conversations are best when it is ongoing and age appropriate. Children learn about alcohol way before parents begin the conversation. They learn about it through everyday exposure at home, parent’s behavior towards drinking, social events, online, media and music.
By the time your child reaches early adolescence, they are aware of the existence of alcohol and some of its effects. This is the ideal time for parents to continue the conversation and exploring their child’s thoughts, beliefs and values surrounding alcohol and underage drinking.
Have a Conversation & Be an Active Listener
During conversations with teens, be accessible, allow them to feel comfortable in asking questions and sharing with you their honest opinions. Avoid judgment and be an active listener. Self-awareness is key at successfully communicating with your teen. As parents, we must be aware of our own attitudes, behaviors, beliefs and values surrounding the issue of underage drinking and alcohol consumption in general. Avoid over reacting, becoming angry or lecturing. You don’t want to shut down communication with your teen. Do establish clear, consistent rules and consequences regarding underage drinking. Make sure your teen understands the reasoning.
Research Alcohol Facts Together
For additional dialogue, go online with your teen and research facts about drinking alcohol. It’s important for children to understand the reasons not to drink, alcohol facts and ways to avoid peer pressure drinking. Allow them to show you how they research these topics. This is a great opportunity for you to learn how and where your teen is obtaining information.
Help Them Deal with Peer Pressure
Brain storm and role play different scenarios with your teen on how to confront peer pressures and get out of challenging situations. It is very important for teens to practice these skills to improve self-confidence, increase safety and build trust that a parent/adult will be available for support no matter the situation.
Be Aware of Your Own Consumption
Most importantly, be an example for your teen. If you drink, do it in moderation and explain why it is OK for you to drink and how you are being a responsible adult. Pay attention to your own alcohol consumption. Are you drinking alcohol to cope with emotional stress? Are you glamourizing drinking? Are you drinking and driving? If so, think about the message being communicated to your child/teen. Also, talk to your teen about any family history of alcoholism/addiction and how it has affected the family. It is important that teens be aware of the implications that alcohol consumption can have in their overall mental, emotional, social and physical health. The more informed the better decisions they can make.
If you suspect that your teen is drinking, don’t hesitate to talk to him or her about it. Enforce the consequences you've established. Act promptly and get help from professionals if you think there is a drinking problem.
Teens need help seeking help since they might not realize they need it. They need you to provide guidance and support to make good choices.