Having the serious talks with your kids isn’t easy. Talking to your teen about sex, peer pressure, drugs, drinking and other issues can be awkward and many parents avoid it. But as daunting as the task may be, do not skip these conversations. Teens whose parents talk to them about drinking are much more likely to be safe and to make good choices than those whose parents never address the subject. Alcohol is the number one substance of abuse for teens. You have the power to influence your teen’s choices about drinking, so get talking. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Plan ahead. Never start an important conversation without proper planning if you can help it. It makes sense to think about what you want to say, to make sure you are going to cover the important points, and to make a plan for how to proceed if your teen doesn’t take it well.
- Be honest. Kids and teens are like human lie detectors. Be up front and honest. If your child asks you a question you’re not comfortable answering or can’t answer, respond by saying you don’t want to talk about it until she’s older, or that you don’t know the answer and that you can look it up together.
- Make it a conversation. Your teen won’t appreciate a lecture. She will be much more open to having a conversation. She’s probably curious about drinking and will want to ask you some questions. Encourage her to do so.
- Talk about the risks. It is essential that you give your teen the honest truth about how harmful underage drinking is. This is why it’s so important to plan ahead. Research the facts and share with your teen what kinds of trouble she can get into if she drinks.
- Destroy myths. There are some dangerous untruths about drinking that your teen should know. For instance, many teens think they need to drink at parties to fit in or to make friends. They might think that alcohol always makes you feel happy.
- Talk about peer pressure. If you tell your teen that she doesn’t need to drink to fit in, prepare her with ways to combat peer pressure. It’s a powerful force, but together you can come up with the right things to say and do in tricky situations.
- Encourage your teen to be open. Let your teen tell you if she has already been drinking with friends. It’s best for your relationship and for her future choices if you encourage an open dialogue. You may be afraid to hear it, but it’s better to know than to be in the dark.
- Be calm. It might just happen that during your conversation you hear some things that make you upset or angry. Maybe your teen has already taken some serious risks. Resist the urge to yell or punish her. Instead, tell her you to appreciate her honesty and then talk about why her choices were dangerous.
- Do tell your teen how you feel. You should remain calm if your teen tells you about her past drinking, but not emotionless. Tell her how it makes you feel, that it scares you for example. She needs to know that her choices affect more people than just herself.
- Be clear about expectations. Don’t forget to set rules and expectations. Tell your teen that you will not tolerate any drinking and list the consequences. Your teen needs boundaries and rules.
Talking about drinking with your teen isn’t easy, but it is important. By keeping this conversation ongoing, you can ensure that your teen feels comfortable coming to you with problems and tough choices. You can also ensure that you have done your best to prepare her to make good choices.