3 Ways to Reach Your Kids: Giving them the tools to avoid risky behavior

My mantra when it comes to talking about any really important topic with kids is threefold: talk early, converse often, and use star power to your advantage. These all definitely apply when it comes to teaching our kids about alcohol responsibility.

Talk Early

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently advised that parents and doctors should start talking to children about the dangers of drinking as early as age 9.

“Surveys indicate that children start to think positively about alcohol between ages 9 and 13 years. The more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, and if they are already drinking, this exposure leads them to drink more,” Dr. Lorena Siqueira, a Miami pediatrician, and colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics.

Translation: The tween years are huge when it comes to how kids think and feel about drinking. Parents need to counter the media messages about alcohol with clear messages of their own about responsible, healthy choices and expectations.

Keep On Talking

Those messages about alcohol need to be part of an ongoing conversation with kids about alcohol, not just “the talk.”

When we want our kids to really learn something for school, we tell them to review it again and again, right? And parents know all too well that telling your kids to do something once probably won’t suffice

That’s true when it comes to something minor, so we definitely can’t think one and done is an adequate approach to important topics, including saying no to alcohol.

Make the discussion a true conversation, one that’s open-ended. This makes it easier for kids to come to you when they have questions, problems, or just want to know you are there.

Another reason to revisit the topic frequently is that the openness of middle school ears and the engagement of the middle school brain really depends on the day, and sometimes even the hour, which leads me to my next point.

Use Star Power

“And it’s really, really important that you do so,” I conclude.

I look at my child, and my heart sinks. She has “the look.” The look that is close to a vacant stare. The one indicating that, while the child’s body is right in front of me, the mind is somewhere else, in a galaxy far, far away. It is possible that the kid is thinking about Minecraft, contemplating their latest crush, or just dreaming about a snack.

Whatever it is, it makes me wonder if what I said actually got processed. I swear, I follow the tips for talking with my child, but she certainly was not hanging on my every word.

As kids grow up, you’re not the only star of their show like you used to be. Fear not, though, you as the parent are still a star. In fact, surveys show kids cite parents as the leading influence on their decisions to not drink alcohol.

It’s just that as their universe expands, there are additional stars and other mentors. This is actually a great thing. They’re not replacing you, and they’re there to provide backup.

Some mentors with serious superstar power can get your kids’ attention, and I love that Ask, Listen, Learn has numerous superstars who encourage kids to say “yes” to a healthy lifestyle and “no” to underage drinking. These superstars are a great help when it comes to making the conversation about alcohol with your kids something that it is ongoing.

Ask, Listen, Learn superstars include three-time national champion figure skater Ashley Wagner, track and field star Christian Taylor, and computer science star Sam Pritt. You can find the full list of superstars here, and it’s highly likely that there’s one who matches your kid’s interests.

I also love that Ask, Listen, Learn has YouTube videos of these superstars talking about not only why they said no to alcohol, but also how to say no and how their focus on goals led them to great heights. Many tweens love YouTube, and this is a great way to reach them on a platform they appreciate, and it literally gives them another voice to hear in their head.

Who doesn’t want a chorus of people your kids respect and admire echoing what you’ve already told them about making healthy choices?

Shannan Younger is a writer living with her husband and tween daughter in the suburbs of Chicago. She writes about parenting adventures on the blog Mom Factually and on Tween Us at ChicagoNow. She also writes at Chicago Parent and her work has been featured by the BBC, the Chicago Tribune and theFamily Online Safety Institute. Her works has also appeared on Mamapedia, The Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, Mamalode. She was honored to have essays included in the anthologies The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship and My Other Ex and is a proud alum of the Listen to Your Mother. She is a native of Ohio who received her undergraduate and law degrees from Notre Dame.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) or any Responsibility.org member.*