4 Strategies for Talking About Underage Drinking
As parents, there are topics that we need to address with our kids that are scary—scary for us to think about, scary to have conversations about, and scary for them as it means potential loss of innocence and childhood. Usually involving personal safety, discussions about these topics begin with our young children as we teach them to look both ways when crossing the street and about stranger safety then progressing to more age appropriate topics involving friendships, online safety, and cyberbullying.
But what about underage drinking? It’s certainly another safety topic that needs to address but if you think that your kids are too young, think again.
According to The Century Council, statistics show that nearly 10 million youths ranging in age from 12-20 report they have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. Charged with providing information and developing programs that delay consumption of alcohol, prevent underage drinking, and reduce the access to alcohol by minors, The Century Council believes in parents being proactive by starting “the conversation at an early age and continue talking as they grow up.”
How do you be proactive and provide the tools your kids need to make good decisions? Parents weigh in.
Talk about it in an age appropriate way by framing the conversation about a healthy lifestyle.
Being proactive begins at a young age as we talk to kids about living a healthy lifestyle. Even though Grace Duffy from Formerly Gracie admits that her kids are so little that the “topic of underage drinking is still abstract” she frames it in a way that they understand. Not only does she limit their juice intake but has talks about what a grown up drink is versus a kid drink and incorporates nutrition and body chemistry.
Seize teachable moments
We know kids are observant and even when they appear to not be paying attention, they are. The Century Council’s Ask, Listen, Learn Brochure for Parents encourages taking advantage of daily opportunities. Perhaps there will be an article in the newspaper or a comment made about a friend that can serve as a springboard to conversation. Abby Hoffman is a mom of a third grader and high schooler and shared the following advice, “Most importantly, talk with your teen. Be involved in their life to a certain extent.”
Demonstrate your support
Talk the talk and then walk the walk. As parents, our kids need to know they can rely on us without getting in trouble or being judged harshly, especially when it comes to dangerous situations. Forbes contributor, Jim Henry, recalled a time when he was stranded after a rock concert in a bad part of Boston after midnight. He had to call his father to make a two hour round trip to bring him home but remembered his dad “never said one word of complaint and I was so grateful.” Author and blogger, Jennifer Wagner of Connect with Your Teens, echoed Henry by saying “the worst thing is for them to be scared to call when they are in a dangerous situation.”
Mom of 4 and Musings from Me founder, Jill Berry, encourages her kids to call her whenever they’re in a situation where alcohol is being served to minors because she “doesn’t want them at a gathering at someone’s home where alcohol is being served” even if the host parents are “supervising.”
But how do you give your child an out what could be a very uncomfortable situation? Father of three, Gabe Gonzales, remembered attending a talk by the Washington, D.C. based Parent Encouragement Program where he learned the importance of having a pre-arranged code word or phrase to use when they’re in an environment they don’t like. Gonzales described the benefit saying, “they can call you in front of their friends without losing face in front of them. So, for example, they could say to you- the parent- over the phone “I’ll finish that laundry tomorrow,” which would lead you to “demanding” that they come home right now” and provides a way for them to be picked up without embarrassment.
If necessary, provide concrete examples.
While shock and awe tactics may not be the best way to start a conversation about underage drinking, showing real life consequences to teens who may be tempted to imbibe are certainly memorable. Three parents reminisced about experiences that exposed them to horrors of underage drinking that they remember to this day:
“Every child should have a mother like mine. One that will take you to the morgue and show you what happens when you drink and drive and how it applies to real life.” ~ Lisa Frame, A Daily Pinch
“In high school we had helicopter pilots come in to talk to use prior to Prom Week and every accident they showed us was underage drinking by high school students. Some of the parents complained that the images were too graphic but they certainly had their place in getting the message across.” ~Rebecca Cervoni, Washington, D.C. parent of 2
“When I covered courts in Nashville, Tennessee, a surprising number of parents took their teenagers to Night Court on Friday nights to see what happens when you get arrested for DUI.” ~ Jim Henry, New York City based freelance writer
Teenagers enjoying drinks together via ShutterstockAdd a Comment