Talking to kids about underage drinking
Parents want to know: How do I talk to my kids about drinking?
Here are a few steps to help kids understand the dangers associated with alcohol.
Be on the lookout for teachable moments when they present themselves. Here in Tennessee, we’ve all seen those (sometimes annoying) TDOT signs encouraging safe driving. Occasionally, TDOT will remind drivers not to drink and drive. Use this as another opportunity to talk kids about the risks associated with drinking.
Keep it serious
Don’t kid around with this topic. Let kids know early on what you expect of their behavior in regards to alcohol. Do this by explaining the dangers of alcohol in the appropriate setting, i.e. the kitchen table (where you’re able to maintain eye contact). When you’re both tuned in to the moment, you’re both less likely to tune out.
Stick with facts
While anecdotes may be effective for politicians trying to connect with voters, we suggest not using them when talking about drinking. Instead, try using the facts:
- More than 4,750 kids under age 16 have their first full drink of alcohol
- More than 4,300 deaths related to underage drinking happen each year
- Drinking can lead to risky sexual behavior and harmful changes in brain development
- Drinking before age 15 dramatically increases alcohol dependence in adulthood
Your open discussions and mature behavior surrounding the topic will make a positive impact.
You don’t have to go it alone. Resources are available to help you and your kids address drinking. One great tool is this comic book we created on this very topic. Spark: the Sobering Truth follows our superhero, Spark, as she faces the challenges of being faced with a situation most high school and some middle school students will find themselves in.
Once isn’t enough
Advertising works, right? We’ve all heard slogans like: Got Milk, Just Do It and Good to the Last Drop. This form of advertising works because it sinks into our brains through repetition. So, instead of just telling kids, “alcohol = bad” on one occasion, make sure the effort gets repeated. Over and over again. And then once more for good measure.
Kids: You may not appreciate the effort now, but this form of parenting will pay off in the long run!
Experts say having lots of small discussions about alcohol across time is more effective and less intimidating for everyone.
The last line of defense
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) alcohol continues to be the most widely misused substance among youth. But, there is hope. Kids have you! In fact, research shows young people decide not to drink because of their parents’ conversations with them.