As your budding adolescent gets older, the chances that she’ll be exposed to alcohol increase. It’s almost inevitable that at some point your child will have to say “yes” or “no” to alcohol. He may be taken by surprise when it happens. He may be trying hard to fit in with a cool crowd. He’ll have trouble thinking up good responses from scratch. That’s why he needs to have some answers at the ready.
“Kids shouldn’t go into lengthy or weak-sounding explanations,” says Paul Coleman, a psychologist, family therapist, and author of How to Say It to Your Kids. “Answers like ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea… My parents wouldn’t like it…’ invite a debate, and your child’s resolve may weaken if the other person keeps trying to talk him into a drink.”
The best strategy, says Coleman, is to practice short, direct replies such as:
“No way! That’s crazy. My parents will ground me for a month.”
“If he keeps saying no, he’s not as likely to be pressured as much or as regularly,” says Coleman.
Anthony Wolf, a clinical psychologist and author of Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall and I’d Listen to My Parents if They’d Just Shut Up: What to Say and Not Say When Parenting Teens points out that saying “no” immediately makes kids different from many of their peers – exactly what most adolescents don’t want. “Drinking or not drinking is one of the things that separates kids once they get into adolescence,” he says. “None of the things they say will completely work, if their aim is that those words won’t set them apart.” If your child does turn away from kids who drink, realize he may need extra emotional support.
Give her the information and support she needs to avoid it. Right now she’s developing her self-image and long-term habits, so you want her to feel positive about herself and make healthy choices.
Let her know she can talk to you about anything. When she does, try to Ask, Listen, Learn.
Give her lots of love and praise.
Plan family activities — read the Ask, Listen, Learn blog for fun ideas. Make sure she’s not left bored and unattended.
Encourage her to be healthy and active. Take part in sports, school clubs, and other extra-curricular activities.