Talking to your teen about underage drinking

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					Talking to your teen about underage drinking

Talking to your kids about drinking can be difficult. You
may be unsure of what to say or your teen may try to avoid
talking to you about the subject. In order to have the best
chance of communicating, you need to try and select
a moment when your son or daughter might be most
relaxed and willing to talk.

How to talk about underage drinking

Don’t worry about covering everything at once, but rather focus on opening up a dialogue about alcohol
and their decision making.

•	 Ask	your	teen’s	views. Find out what your teen knows and thinks about alcohol.
•	 Share	facts. Explain that alcohol is a powerful drug that slows the body and mind, and that anyone
   can develop an alcohol problem — even a teen without risk factors for alcohol abuse.
•	 Debunk	myths. Teens often think that drinking makes them popular or happy. Explain that alcohol
   can make you feel “high” but it’s a depressant that also can cause sadness and anger.
•	 Discuss	reasons	not	to	drink.	Avoid scare tactics. Instead,
   explain the risks and appeal to your teen’s self-respect. If you
   have a family history of alcoholism or drinking problems,
   be honest with your teen. Strongly discourage your teen
   from trying alcohol — even as an adult — since there’s a
   considerable chance that your teen could develop an alcohol
   problem, too.
•	 Plan	ways	to	handle	peer	pressure. Brainstorm with
   your teen about how to respond to offers of alcohol. It is
   important that teens think about how to handle situations
   before they occur. It might be as simple as saying, “No
   thanks” or “Do you have any soda?”
•	 Talk	about	what	happens	if	… Assure your teen that you
   will always be there for them. If they are in a situation where
   they are uncomfortable, have made a mistake, or may be in
   a position to be offered a ride from someone who has been
   drinking, tell them that you are just a phone call away –
   assure them that you will be there for them no matter what
   has happened.
•	 Discuss	the	risks	of	alcohol	poisoning. Sometimes teens
   and young adults are fearful of the consequences of being

                                                                                   Safety Research and Outreach

   caught drinking or being around alcohol so when one of their companions drinks too much they are
   hesitant to call or ask for help. Explain the symptoms of alcohol poisoning to your teen and remind
   them that it is important to act when they think someone might be in trouble after drinking. A friend’s
   safety is more important than worrying about getting in trouble.
•	 Be	prepared	to	discuss	your	own	drinking.	Your teen might ask if you drank alcohol when you were
   underage. If you chose not to drink, explain why. If you chose to drink, you might share an example
   of a negative consequence of your drinking. If you drink today, be prepared to talk about why social
   drinking is OK for you and not for your teen.

Ways to prevent underage drinking

In addition to talking to your teen, consider other strategies to prevent underage drinking:

•	 Develop	a	strong	relationship	with	your	teen.	Your support will help your teen build the self-
   esteem he or she needs to
   stand up to peer pressure
   — and live up to your

   activities. Pay attention
•	 Know	your	teen’s	

   to your teen’s friends,
   plans and whereabouts.
   Encourage participation
   in supervised after-school
   and weekend activities.

   consequences. Rules
•	 Establish	rules	and	

   might include no underage
   drinking, leaving parties
   where alcohol is served
   and not riding in a car
   with a driver who’s been
   drinking. Agree on the
   consequences of breaking the rules ahead of time — and enforce them consistently.
•	 Set	an	example.	If you drink, do so only in moderation and explain to your teen why it’s OK for adults
   to drink responsibly. Describe the rules you follow, such as not drinking and driving. Don’t serve
   alcohol to anyone who’s underage.
•	 Encourage	healthy	friendships. If your teen’s friends drink, your teen is more likely to drink,
   too. Explain to your teen that even if they choose not to drink they need to be aware that “guilt by
   association” is an issue and who they hang around with determines how they are perceived. Get to
   know your teen’s friends and their parents.

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