Approximately 10 percent of 12-year-olds say they have tried alcohol, but by age 15, that number jumps to 50 percent. Research has shown that kids who have conversations with their parents and learn a lot about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50% less likely to use alcohol and drugs than those who don’t have such conversations. While talking with kids about alcohol should start early, those stats underscore the importance of keeping that conversation going, and amping it up, during the tween and early teen years.
If you need additional motivation to bring it up with your kids, April is Alcohol Responsibility Month. That may be a good intro, but discussing alcohol with tweens and teens is not always easy. Thankfully, there are experts out there offering advice and suggestions. Here are some great resources for parents talking with kids about alcohol.
Ask, Listen, Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix is the most widely-distributed alcohol education program, teaching more than 20 million parents, kids and educators since it began in 2003. It emphasizes saying "yes" to a healthy lifestyle and "no" to underage drinking. They have different materials for kids, teens, and college students.
I'm a fan of the "How to Talk to your Adolescent about Alcohol" brochure, but love that they have brochures for kids, including one titled "You Are What You Drink," many other resources for parents, and additional materials for school counselors and teachers. They also address how honest parents should be about their prior experiences with alcohol.
There are also online resources, such as the game Max the Facts, that can be an interactive way to engage kids and perhaps learn together. I admit that I did not know that when you drink alcohol it takes only 30 seconds for it to move through your blood stream and reach your brain.
Great advice: "Tweens are undergoing many emotional and physical changes, and they’re fascinated by how their bodies and minds operate. So, without delivering a science report, give your child plenty of information about how alcohol affects them."
Check out this video:
MADD offers Power of Parents handbooks for parents of middle schoolers and parents of high schoolers, and you can request that they be emailed to you here. I appreciate that the website explains why the drinking age is 21, and think that's something that's absolutely worth reviewing with your kids.
Great advice: "Tell your teen you love them and want them to be healthy and safe. Explain that’s why you need to talk together about the dangers of underage drinking."
The guide "Make a Difference: Talk to Your Child About Alcohol" is geared to parents and guardians of young people ages 10 to 14, acknowledging that many children are not yet drinking. That doesn't mean you can keep quiet, though. They note that parents have more influence on a child's values and decisions about drinking before a child has begun consuming it.
"Even if your child is not yet drinking alcohol, he or she may be receiving pressure to drink. Act now. Keeping quiet about how you feel about your child’s alcohol use may give him or her the impression that alcohol use is OK for kids."
Great advice: "Trust your instincts. Choose ideas you are comfortable with, and use your own style in carrying out the approaches you find useful. Your child looks to you for guidance and support in making life decisions—including the decision not to use alcohol."
This UK organization offers a guide, Talking to Kids about Alcohol: A Guide for Parents and Carers, that provides good advice for parents on both sides of the pond. I think it's interesting to realize how similar the advice is by experts in both countries.
For example, the theme of really engaging in a conversation with your child came up repeatedly in these resources.
Great advice: "Talk and listen to your teenager. It is important that they hear your views and that you hear theirs. Use everyday opportunities, for example a storyline in a TV programme, as a prompt."
The booklet "What Should I Tell My Child About Drinking" has pictures that are a little dated, but the advice is still useful. I like that it is broken down by age group, with those groups being 5-9, 10-12, 13-18 and 18+.
Great advice: "Many parents have discovered that talking about alcohol and drugs with their children has built bridges rather than walls between them and have proudly watched those children learn to make healthy, mature decisions on their own."
You May Also Like: Why and how to talk to kids about drinking and driving
Prior Post: Roundup of great posts about tweens and teens
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