Talking with your kids about underage drinking and driving can be a challenging task, but experts agree that it is a necessary one. Teens who hear a strong no-use message from their parents are less likely to drink or use other drugs. But just because you know you should talk with your children, it doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to go about it.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to talking about difficult subjects like drinking and drugs is that it’s not a five-minute “talk” — it’s about building an ongoing conversation.
While many teens drink alcohol, underage alcohol use is not inevitable. Families are not helpless to prevent it. Focus your efforts on the factors that protect teens from alcohol use. At the same time, you can work to reduce the factors that increase the chance that they will drink.
Talk. They Hear You.
- Show you disapprove of underage drinking. Over 80% of young people ages 10-18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision to drink or not drink. They really are listening.
- Show you care about your child’s happiness and wellbeing. Reinforce why you don’t want your child to drink – not just because you say so, but because you want your child to be happy and safe.
- Show you’re a good source of information about alcohol. You want your child to make informed decisions about drinking with reliable information about its dangers – not from friends, the Internet or the media.
- Show you’re paying attention and you’ll notice if your child drinks. Young people are more likely to drink if they think no one will notice. There are many subtle ways to do this without prying.
- Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking. Peer pressure is a powerful thing. Help your child develop and practice the skills they need to resist.
Keep it low-key.
Don’t worry – you don’t have to get everything across in one talk. Many small talks are better.