Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Starting Conversations About Underage Drinking
Did you know? Some kids may try alcohol as early as 8th grade (Illinois Youth Survey, 2018). Alcohol can affect the teenage developing brain including memory, decision-making, information processing, learning, coordination and physical control. As parents, you are the number one influence on whether your teen drinks or not (SAMHSA).
"...it is never too early or too late to initiate open and honest conversations with your children."
The good news is that it is never too early or too late to initiate open and honest conversations with your children. Research has found that having clear family rules and short, consistent conversations with teens or tweens, have contributed to lower rates of teen substance use and other risky behaviors. Here a few tips to help start the conversation:
Relax and let any tension go. You don’t have to get everything across in one talk.
Use day to day opportunities like car rides, walks, or while folding laundry.
Spend quality time with your teens: Your teen is more likely to be more comfortable around you if you both spend time bonding. Go out and have ice cream together, walk around the neighborhood or a local park, watch their favorite movies or channels with them, cook dinner together, or go bowling. What does your teen like to do?
Role-play: Ask your teen, “What would you do if you were at your friend’s house and someone offered you a drink?” Help your teen problem solve the situation and come up with healthy alternatives. If your teen responds with something unexpected, try to remain calm. Listen to what they have to say and allow them to ask you questions.
Set clear rules that you disapprove of underage drinking. Share why you care about their wellness and success. Let them know you are here to help and guide them to make healthy choices.
If you find it hard to open up face-to-face, use technology to your advantage. Teenagers might find it easier to start with texting before moving completely to an in-person conversation. Remember, the more time you spend with your teen, the easier it will get.
For more information, visit samhsa.gov/underage-drinking or asklistenlearn.org