Starting a conversation with questions
If you're looking for a way to help kids and teens steer clear of drinking, one of the best things you can do is start a two-way conversation. Not sure where to start? Why not start here"
Ask questions – and listen to what they have to say.
Kids are much less likely to tune you out if they feel like they're part of a conversation. Resist the urge to lecture. Instead ask questions that will get them talking:
What would you do if someone offered you alcohol?
- Have you ever tried alcohol? Have you ever wanted to try alcohol? Why or why not?
- Do you know any kids that drink? Where do they get their alcohol?
- Have you ever been to a party (other than a social event) where people were drinking?
- Do you ever feel pressured to drink alcohol?
- Do you have any questions for me about alcohol?
Kids, Alcohols and the Media
Movies and TV shows sometimes portray teen drinking as a right of passage. While you can't always prevent kids from seeing portrayals of underage drinking, you can use them to kick off a discussion. Get kids talking by asking a few questions:
- Do you think this situation is realistic? Why or why not?
- Why do you think they are drinking?
- Do you think this makes drinking look fun and cool?
- Do you think these characters are good role models? Why or why not?
- What would you do if you were in that situation?
- Do you think movies/shoes like this make teens want to drink?
Social Hosting: Not a "Safe" Alternative
Some parents think that by letting kids drink at home (often called "social hosting") they're doing the responsible thing. They believe that by giving kids a safe, supervised place to drink they're reducing the risk of alcohol-related problems.
When it comes to underage drinking, there's no such thing as "safe." Supervised or not, young people that drink are more likely to engage in risky behavior. What's more, if a kid is hurt of killed as a result of an alcohol-related accident, the adult who provided the alcohol can be held responsible. Some states even have specific laws against social hosting.
Make sure kids and teens know that if they drink, they're not just breaking your rules – they are breaking the law. Discuss your state's drinking age, and talk about the consequences of underage drinking.
- Jail time
- Community service
- Getting kicked out of extracurricural activities like sports, band or clubs
- Losing thier drivers license
- Trouble getting into college
Refusal Skills: Saying "NO"
Discuss situations, such as parties or other social events, where they might feel extra pressure to drink alcohol – and then help them to come up with a few good ways to say "no." Help them come up with a few lines such as:
- Drinking makes me feel sick. Can I have a soda instead?
- No thanks. I'm good right now.
- My parents will ground me for life if they smell that stuff on me.
- Sorry, I'm driving tonight.
- I don't drink
- I don't like the taste of alcohol
Remind them that a simple "no" works fine too – they don't owe anyone an explanation.
What if kids are already drinking?
- If a kid is already experimenting with alcohol, first thing to do is find out why. Stay calm and ask a few questions:
- Did they feel pressured to drink by friends, peers, or family members?
- Did they think they had to drink to fit in of to look "cool"?
- Where did they get the alcohol?
- Is there something else going on – such as stress or depression – that made them want to drink?
Once you've figured out why they started drinking, help them come up with other ways to deal with peer pressure, stress, or other issues. Revisit your rules about drinking, and encourage them to come to you if they have questions of problems – or if they just need a little extra encouragement.
Most importantly, keep talking: kids and teens who fell that they can talk to a trusted adult are less likely to drink.
Talking to kids about drinking: The Do's and Don'ts
- Set clear rules about drinking. Tell them that you don't allow drinking – and make sure they understand what will happen to them if they break those rules.
- Set a good example. If you drink make sure you drink responsibly – don't overindulge, and never drive after drinking alcohol.
- Work on self- esteem. Most young people are struggling with low self-esteem. Many have trouble fitting in with their peers. Help your child build their confidence and develop healthy ways to get involved with extracurricular activities, such as music, sports ad clubs.
- Don't lecture. Give kids lots of opportunities to talk and express their opinions.
- Don't assume that one talk is enough. Talk to kids frequently about the risks associated with alcohol abuse and underage drinking.
- Don't wait until you catch kids drinking to think of a punishment. Set clear rules and expectations early on, and make sure kids know exactly what will happen if they break your rules about drinking.
- Don't ignore your instincts. If you suspect that a kid is drinking, talk to them. Ask questions. Let them know you are paying attention.