Starting the Conversation
The chance your child will use alcohol gets higher as he or she gets older.
About 10 percent of 12-year-olds say they have tried alcohol. By age 15, that number jumps to 50 percent. The sooner you talk to your children about alcohol, the greater chance you have of influencing their decision not to drink.
Some kids may try alcohol as early as 9 years old.
Most 6-year-olds know that alcohol is only for adults. Between the ages of 9 and 13, kids start to view alcohol differently. Many begin to think drinking is OK. Some even start to experiment. It is never too early to talk to your child about alcohol.
Goals from the Conversation
- Show you disapprove of underage drinking.
More than 80% of young people ages 10-18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision to drink or not drink. So they really are listening, and it’s important that you send a clear and strong message.
- Show you care about your child’s happiness and well-being.
Young people are more likely to listen when they know you’re on their side. Try to reinforce why you don’t want your child to drink—not just because you say so, but because you want your child to be happy and safe. The conversation will go a lot better if you’re working with, and not against, your child.
- Show you’re a good source of information about alcohol.
You want your child to be making informed decisions about drinking, with reliable information about its dangers. You don’t want your child to be learning about alcohol from friends, the internet, or the media—you want to establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information.
- Show you’re paying attention and you’ll notice if your child drinks.
You want to show you’re keeping an eye on your child, because young people are more likely to drink if they think no one will notice. There are many subtle ways to do this without prying.
- Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking.
Even if your child doesn’t want to drink, peer pressure is a powerful thing. It could be tempting to drink just to avoid looking uncool. To prepare your child to resist peer pressure, you’ll need to build skills and practice them.
Keep it low-key. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get everything across in one talk. Many small talks are better.