Prevent Underage Alcohol Abuse
Most parents have heard the message: Talk to your kids about drug and alcohol abuse. But it’s hard to know when and how to initiate a conversation about the dangers of underage drinking.
Here are some tips from the experts:
- Don’t wait until your kids are teenagers to start talking. Tweens—9 to 13 years of age—look to their parents for guidance about alcohol.
- Talk often. One big conversation about alcohol won’t do the trick. Kids run into different situations as they get older, so you need to have the conversation over and over.
- Take advantage of stories in the news to initiate a discussion. Tell your kids what you think, and ask your kids what they think, too. Listen carefully, and don’t criticize their responses. Have a discussion, not an argument.
- Give your kids lots of information about how alcohol affects them physiologically, such as how it can reduce inhibitions and lead to risky behavior, interfere with normal brain development, and over time damage their kidneys, liver, and pancreas.
- Help your kids have some answers ready for when they find themselves confronted with the decision not to drink. Their responses should be short and direct, such as, “No way! My parents will ground me for a month.” Weak-sounding answers like, “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” invite debate, which may wear down the child’s resolve if the other person keeps trying to convince them to drink.
- Be ready for your kids’ questions, such as, “Grown-ups drink alcohol, so why can’t I?”
You’ll find answers to their questions and more good ideas in Ask, Listen, Learn—How to Talk to Your Adolescent About Alcohol. If your kids want to learn about alcohol on their own, here are two good sources Ask, Listen, Learn—Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix and TheCoolSpot.gov.
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