Parents: YOU DO MATTER!
Did you know that research shows that parents are the #1 reason teens decide not to drink? Your conversations and examples can actually have a huge impact on your teen’s decisions about alcohol!
Timing and consistency is incredibly important. About 10% of 12-year-olds say they have tried alcohol, but by age 15, that number jumps to 50%. The sooner you talk to your children about alcohol, the greater chance you have of influencing their decisions about drinking.
Don’t know what to say – or how to say it?
There are 6 effective communication strategies* you can implement in your conversations with your children to reduce the chance that your child will drink, drive under the influence, or ride with someone who is…
- First, start talking to your child early. Timing can be as simple as bringing it up in natural conversations when you see something on TV or hear something they’ve said. Start when they’re young and don’t stop talking to your kids about alcohol as they enter Jr. High and High School, keep the conversations going.
- Talk often to build an open trusting relationship with your child. Chat with your child every day so he or she is comfortable coming to you for advice. This will make the serious conversations easier. Ask questions, be curious. TAKE THE TIME to know who they are.
- Lots of little talks are more effective than one “big talk” because it sounds intimidating. A child is more likely to pay attention to little daily conversations – in the car, during dinner or while watching TV.
- Be clear and consistent, share your opinions, be honest and express a clear, consistent message that underage drinking is unacceptable. When they feel that you’re being real, they are more likely to respect your rules. If you used alcohol or other drugs when you were young, decide how to address that with them beforehand… This is a great resource: http://www.drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/How-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-drugs-if-you-did-drugs.pdf
- Set boundaries. Explain to your child why you are setting boundaries. (Example: “I’m doing this to keep you healthy and safe.”) Firmly establish a rule that alcohol use will not be tolerated. Set a rule prohibiting drinking alcohol before age 21. Explain the risks of drinking while his or her brain is still developing. NIDA for teens & Too Smart To Start are great websites that can teach you and your child about the effects of drugs and alcohol. While teens will often discount that risks will actually happen to them, helping your children become future-oriented thinkers is an important lesson. You may have to try a number of different strategies or ideas before one sticks. However you address it, the best policy is honesty. Trying to scare them by exaggerating consequences is more likely to backfire than not.
- Set firm but reasonable rules. (Example: setting a curfew or expecting to be notified when plans change). Be clear about the consequences if the rules are not followed in advance and follow through consistently. Don’t: Establish unreasonable rules (example: children have an 8 p.m. bedtime regardless of age or day of the week) or be overly harsh in punishment or consequences if they break the rules. (Example: grounding children for a month for being late one time). This might push your child away and prevent him or her from opening up to you.
Even with these strategies, the media’s glorification of lifestyles that involve heavy alcohol use can entice your teens to try a drink or even binge when they’re around their peers. Make sure you get to know your children’s friends and their parents. Help them choose friends that support your family values. With these strategies, you can significantly reduce the likelihood that your teens will use and abuse alcohol, protecting their developing brain from its harmful effects and setting them up for success in the future.
While enforcing these boundaries and rules may be difficult at times, in the end, YOU MATTER and what you are doing as a parent will have a huge impact on your kid’s lives!
*an excerpt from a publication by our friends at safesouthdakota.org
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