There is no solid answer to WHEN discussions about alcohol should begin with kids. But the topic should not be taboo. Whether your child raises the subject of drinking or you broach it yourself, when the topic does come up, make your views clear. Your tweens may not parrot your opinions the way they did when they were younger, but they still very much care about what you say—especially if they were the ones to bring it up. And despite what you may think and how they may react, your kids are listening.
Parents are the leading influence on kids’ decisions to drink or not drink alcohol. Have the conversations. Let them ask while you listen, and learn together about saying YES to a healthy lifestyle and NO to underage drinking.
Take advantage of daily opportunities to talk
- eating breakfast in the morning.
- settling in to bed at night.
- driving in the car on the way to or from an activity.
Use a current news event about alcohol as a way to break the ice.
- Give your reaction about the situation and ask your child for theirs.
- Make it a discussion—not an argument.
- Learn from each other and decide what each of you would do in a similar situation.
“Kids need to know that if they speak openly, they won’t regret it,” says Paul Coleman, a psychologist, family therapist, and author of How to Say It to Your Kids. “They don’t want to be talked down to. Eliminate comments such as ‘How could you think that way?’ and ‘What made you say such a thing?’” If your children feel you’re interrogating them, they might clam up. If they know that it’s okay to talk – even disagree – about difficult issues, they will be less likely to tune out your opinion.
Establish the consequences
This is no time for passive aggressive language. Kids can be very literal, and your children may not know how you feel about underage alcohol consumption until you make it perfectly clear.
Tell them, “I’m completely against it for kids.”
Then explain exactly why. Need some help? Check out our parenting resources and videos to help you navigate these rough waters.