Talking to Your Teen About Drinking

Realize The Need For A Talk About Drinking

Many parents find talking to their kids about certain topics to be difficult, especially with older children who are about ready to go to college. This includes alcohol consumption but more particularly, alcohol abuse and the effects of alcoholism. Your child may try to avoid the discussion, and you may be unsure of how to proceed. However, considering the damage alcohol can do – even when consumed legally – it’s a necessary conversation. Don’t forget, your silence on this matter speaks volumes.

Parents who avoid explaining why avoiding alcohol is a good thing are indirectly influencing their children, even if they don’t realize it. College-bound students are especially at risk since binge-drinking is common. Here is a guide to help you have that difficult chat your child needs to learn from.

Unfortunately, many parents think their children are immune to substance abuse, only to find out later how disastrously wrong this kind of thinking is. The facts show that children begin exploring things like alcohol consumption much sooner than most parents realize. Most children at least 6 years of age believe that alcohol is for adults, but that changes fast.

Kids who are 9 to 12 years old see alcohol as a temptation – something that will make them seem grown up to their peers. In fact, some children consume their first alcoholic drink at the age of 9. Approximately 10% of children 12 years of age report trying alcohol, with that number skyrocketing to 50% by 15 years of age. Consider those numbers and this statistic: almost 80% of kids believe parents should set rules regarding children drinking alcohol. The need is clear, and the children are saying they want you to talk to them.

Plan It Out

A good plan toward approaching the topic is necessary to avoid having a negative impact. To make sure you and your child have the best conversation possible, do your homework, plan what you want to talk about, and create an outline to help you keep on track.

Be Informed

If you want your child to take you seriously, do your research. This means knowing the facts on alcohol consumption, understanding why people do it, what long-term effects might result, how alcohol impacts the body and their mental health, having statistics on the risks, and making the data available. You’re having a discussion with a person who believes he or she knows everything already. Arguing with your child won’t get you far.

If parents want children to understand the long term effects of binge drinking or how alcohol’s effect on young people differs from its effect on adults, you need to show your child information he or she needs. Here is a handy chart you can use as a visual aid:

Infographic from Elevate Rehab

Give your child some time to read through this on their own. When they have questions, try to answer them as honestly and openly as you can, and don’t hold back if they ask personal questions. Having your children see you be vulnerable can be frightening, but it’s a powerful way to grab their attention. Your personal story will go a long way toward helping them accept the data you’re showing them.

Don’t Hold Back

Be completely honest with your child about what is coming. College is a complicated time, with many challenges and pressures. It’s a time of experimentation, when children try out being adults in what is a relatively stable situation. Because of that, the pressure to start drinking goes up, with upwards of 60% of college students drinking alcohol and nearly two-thirds of them taking part in binge drinking. Around 1,830 students in college die each year because of some kind of alcohol related injury. Almost 700,000 students aged 18 to 24 experience assault from a drunk student, and roughly 100,000 students have suffered alcohol-induced sexual assault or date rape.

Converse, Don’t Speechify

First, have a conversation with your child. Don’t just read a speech or quote data points; this shouldn’t be a lecture or a briefing. Allow your children to have their own voice in this discussion if you want them to listen to what you have to say. Second, make the data relatable, and deliver it in a manner they can consume. You know your child better than anyone. Consider how adult children might respond to what you’re saying and take that into account as you prepare. Find ways to engage them without presenting something to fight against.

Choose The Right Time

One final step you should include in your planning is choosing the right time. Don’t pick the day before their trip to college or after a tough exam to bring it up. Make sure it’s a calm day for you, too. The stress is likely to be higher when you’re all busy, leading you to rush the discussion. Choose a time of day where you both have some empty time and can relax for the conversation.

Take It In Chunks

Remember, you don’t need to talk to your child about the entire thing at once. Having discussions about binge drinking and long-term alcohol consumption are complicated. You won’t convince your child in one long meeting.

Play The Long Game

Make the conversation an ongoing thing, one where you show you’re always available to talk more and that you want them to ask questions. Keep in mind that your child is going to find the information from someone; you want that person to be you, but your child won’t come to you if you haven’t made it clear that you are available. Choose a setting and timeframe that won’t try the child’s patience or lead to an argument.

Consider Long-Term Goals

The key to a healthy parent-child relationship lies in conversation: listening and talking to each other.  A parent’s job is difficult, however, the effort put into maintaining a good relationship with your child pays dividends that make the work worth it.

2020 Kimberly Signature


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