April is Alcohol Awareness Month. If you are a parent, one of the most crucial conversations you will have with your child is about drugs and alcohol and one of the most frequently asked questions is how to talk with your kids about alcohol. It’s important to begin having these conversations early, and with the right tone, so your child starts off with a healthy relationship and understanding of alcohol.
Choose the right tone.
When you approach a conversation about alcohol, think about it like you would a conversation with a friend, rather than a lecture. Remind yourself to pause and listen to your child as they give feedback and ask questions, which will encourage them to pay attention and open up. When talking with your kids about alcohol, it’s important that you don’t come across as judgmental or disapproving.
Get the timing right.
When you talk to your kids about alcohol, try to make the conversation happen as naturally as possible. Instead of bringing it up out-of-the-blue, try to bring up alcohol as part of an existing conversation. Choose a time when you are one-on-one with your child and you’re both feeling comfortable and casual, rather than starting the conversation at bedtime or when they are heading out the door to meet friends.
Look for conversation “hooks”.
If you’re watching a TV show together and someone is drinking, or you read a news headline about a drunk driving accident, choose moments like that to bring up your child’s relationship with alcohol. Start by simply asking them what they think about that specific situation and follow-up from there.
Be an example.
As a parent, you may consider letting your child drink alcohol as long as they do so at home. That’s not an uncommon theory! However, studies suggest that students (6th, 7th and 8th graders) whose parents allowed them to drink at home or provided them with alcohol experienced the highest jump into drinking. Additional studies also found that children who are allowed to drink at home are more likely to drink outside of the home, which defeats the original purpose of allowing a child to drink at home.
Additionally, it’s important to be an example to your child when it comes to alcohol use. Every parent has different values and rules however, experts suggest that parents shouldn’t hide their drinking from their kids. It’s important that children see a healthy use of alcohol from their parents and, if there is a situation where the parents drinks too much on one occasion, experts also suggest that parents shouldn’t hide it. Parents should talk with their children about the effects of over drinking and allow their children to see the results.
Conversation starters to talk with your kids about alcohol.
Keep conversations as natural as possible when you’re talking with your kids about alcohol. Here are a few tips to get the conversation going, if you need help:
- “If there is alcohol at the party, call me and I’ll pick you up.”
- “Hey, I heard about [celebrity, sports figure or news story regarding alcohol]. What do you think about that?”
- “Are you feeling pressured by your friends to drink? Let’s talk about how that makes you feel.”
- “Did you know that alcohol actually changes the way your brain works if you drink too early? Your brain is still developing, so drinking can actually change how your brain works and how happy it can feel.”
- If they hear of a classmate who was drinking or snuck alcohol into school: “How could you tell he was drinking? What did the other kids do? What did you think? Why do you think he/she did that?”
- “What would you do if you were in a car and the driver had been drinking?
- “What could you say if you were offered a drink and you didn’t want to look lame in front of your friends?”
- “What could you do if you were feeling nervous at a party, besides drink?”
- “Have you ever thought I acted differently when I drank? What about other adults?”
Start the conversation early with your child. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that 79 percent of teenagers have tried alcohol by the time they ender 12th grade. It also reported that parents should begin talking with their kids about alcohol as early as nine years old.
If you have any questions about how to talk with your kids about alcohol, or you need additional information to get you started, contact us today.