Kids have a lot of questions, including questions about alcohol. Since April is Alcohol Responsibility Month, now is a great time to start a conversation about underage drinking but if you’re not quite sure how to start the conversation, I’m here to help thanks to advice learned from working with Responsibility.org for the past four years.
Responsibility.org leads the fight to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking and has a wealth of resources that support teaching our kids how to become responsible decision-makers. Over past few years I’ve worked with Responsibility.org in various capacities and I’ve always how they’ve provided me with tools to talk to my kids about underage drinking in age appropriate ways and ability to keep the conversation going as they grow.
If you’re not quite sure how to start the conversation or continue the discussion about underage drinking in your home after the month ends, here are some tips.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Underage Drinking
Know the Facts
Curiosity about alcohol starts at a young age especially when a colorful fruity drink adorned with a tantalizing slice of fruit or fun umbrella arrives at the table or, as in the case in our family, when our daughter asked if she could have a beer at the ballpark when she was 9. Although she was testing me to see how I would respond, I was prepared to answer her query with facts about why kids and alcohol don’t mix.
Make sure kids know that alcohol affects their developing brains but it’s also illegal to consume before the age of 21. Responsibility.org believes that by having honest conversations often, you’re building a strong relationship with your child so the conversations about responsibility continue as they grow up.
Start the Conversation by Breaking the Ice
Since parents are the #1 influence on their kids’ decisions to drink- or not to drink- alcohol, we can’t afford to ignore this topics in our homes. Break the ice by seizing teachable moments like the beer in the ballpark request, using current events to spark conversation, and using times that you’re together like when in the car, during a meal, or winding down the day.
There’s no bad time to talk about underage drinking and it’s important for kids to understand why they’re not allowed to drink.
As a former teacher, I know underage drinking is covered during discussions about substance abuse in health education classes and there’s real science behind how alcohol affects growing brains and bodies but as a mom, it’s critical that I follow up on what was learned at school through discussions at home. After all, research shows when conversations about alcohol go up, underage drinking goes down!
Know the Conversation Shifts as Your Kids Get Older
I started the conversation about underage drinking when my kids were in elementary school and wanted to know more about what adults around them were drinking. Now that they’re in middle school, they learn how alcohol affects growing brains and bodies in health class but it’s still important that I model responsibility while following up on classroom learning at home.
As my daughter approaches high school, I know there’s a possibility that she’ll go to a friend’s house and be offered a drink. Even though I hope she will remember lessons learned around our dinner table as well as those from the classroom, I hope other parents will know the laws about providing underage kids with alcohol. Providing underage kids with alcohol is called social hosting and it does come with consequences that vary from state to state. Know the laws in your state about social hosting and others, like Good Samaritan laws, that are designed to keep them safe.
Empower Your Kids to Say No
Remembering lessons learned and knowing the laws are important but so is feeling confident in standing up to peer pressure and saying no. Talk through these hypothetical situations to help your kids practice safe decision making and use the 10 ways you can help your kids learn to say no above. Also give them a way out with the X-plan.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
Just like many conversations, talking about alcohol isn’t something you do once and cross off your parenting to-do list. As kids grow, the way alcohol is present in their lives shifts. Younger kids wanting to know what’s in mom or dad’s glass grow up and can be subjected to peer pressure to drink. Since continued conversations with kids about alcohol often is important, here tips for effectively communicating with your child to give them the confidence they need to say yes to a healthy lifestyle and no to underage drinking.
For more tips on talking to your kids about alcohol and underage drinking, visit Responsibility.org and check out the other posts I’ve written to help guide you through these important conversations.
- How to Teach Kids to Make Good Decisions in Tough Situations
- What Do You Do When Your Kids Ask for a Sip of Your Drink?
- Why It’s Important to #TalkEarly When a 9 Year Old Asks for a Beer
- What Parenting Books Don’t Tell You About Creating a Lifetime of Conversations with Your Kids
- 8 Things Kids Can Learn from a Brewery Tour
I work as an Educational Programs Consultant for Responsibility.org and am a member of their Educational Advisory Board. I was not compensated or required to write this post.