Last Updated on December 10, 2019 by Valarie Ward
Do conversations with your teen mimic the picture displayed above?
Talking to your teen isn’t always easy. The pre-teen through teenage years are volatile. Your child is going through a huge number of changes from physical to mental to emotional.
Think back to when you were your child’s age. How was your relationship with your parents?
It’s normal for tweens and teens to buck parental authority, but giving up on parenting isn’t the answer. Parental authority is critical, especially when serious conversations need to happen. Throughout the teen years a number of uncomfortable conversations need to take place from chats about sex to discussions about drugs and alcohol. So how do you talk to your teen about alcohol?
Step #1: Ditch the Discomfort
Think about the most awkward conversation you’ve ever had and chances are you’ll recall how uncomfortable it made you. It may have been the person you were conversing with or the contents of the conversation that made you feel this way. But the conversation was necessary.
Maybe your awkward exchange was with your boss at work. Maybe it was with a medical professional in a private office. Maybe it was a conversation you had with one (or both) of your parents. It probably wasn’t very comfortable for the other person involved, but they (and you) pushed through.
The first step in talking to your teen about alcohol is ditching the discomfort. You need to prepare for the conversation so that you are comfortable. If you’re nervous and stumbling over words, chances are your teen will reflect it.
How do you ditch the discomfort? You can…
- Plan the Conversation: Before initiating a talk, think about what you want to cover and have a clear outline in mind. Don’t be afraid to write down the things you want to bring up. If the things you write down make you nervous, research them. Preparation and planning is key to a focused, low stress chat.
- Pick a Comfortable Place: There’s nothing worse than having a serious talk in an unfit environment. For example, how would you react if your doctor decided to chat about your medical concerns or history in the waiting room instead of a private room? Think about and pick a comfortable and appropriate place to talk to your child about alcohol. Don’t try to initiate the conversation in a place where others can overhear it or disruptions will keep popping up.
- Practice: It sounds silly, but practice really does make perfect. Although you aren’t prepping a lecture, practicing what you’d like to say can remove discomfort before and during the actual discussion. It’s also a great way to put your planning into words. By practicing out loud you can pinpoint awkward phrases and weed them out.
Step #2: Be Ready to Be Firm
Research has suggested that teens look to their parents for guidance and boundaries. They expect you to teach them the different between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Even when they ignore your advice, they still listen to it. What you do and say does make a dramatic impact.
When having a conversation about underage drinking or alcohol consumption, be ready to be firm. Let them know what is unacceptable. Don’t shy away from letting them know exactly what you expect and the consequences they’ll face if they engage in unacceptable behavior.
Step #3: Discuss the Facts
Part of your job as a parent is to educate. What do you know about underage drinking? How much do you know about alcohol and how it affects the body? Not much? That’s okay because thanks to resources like our blog you have access to a plethora of free and accurate information all designed to increase your knowledge. Here are some articles you can use to learn the facts about youth and alcohol:
- Underage Drinking in North Carolina
- The Facts about Underage Drinking on College Campuses
- Underage Drinking Statistics: Overview of Teens and Alcohol Use Across the US
- The Problem with Underage Drinking in North Carolina and Why You Should Care
- North Carolina’s Underage Drinking Pilot Program
- 5 Things Parents Need to Know before Talking about Drinking
- 5 Reasons Not to Give a Teenager Alcohol
- One Child is Lost per Week to Underage Drinking
- Alcohol Awareness Month: 6 Reasons NOW Is the Time to Educate Youth & Teens about Alcohol
- What Do You Know about Alcohol?
- The Effects of Binge Drinking On the Teenage Brain
- Under 21 and Convicted of Driving After Consuming Alcohol or Drugs
Step #4: Don’t Think Your Child is Too Young
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is waiting too long to start the conversation with their child. According to NPR.org, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends parents start conversing with their children about alcohol as early as age 9.
Why so soon? 9 seems awfully young, doesn’t it?
Research conducted by the SAMHSA revealed that approximately 10% of 12-year-olds have tried alcohol. By the age of 15, the number of children having tried alcohol increases by 50%! By starting the conversation early, you give your child the tools they need to make smart choices.
Step #5: Don’t Be Dissuaded
If your pre-teen or teen is over the age of 9, don’t be discouraged. You can start the conversation today.
What if your child believes they know it all? Do not let this discourage you either. No matter how your tween or teen reacts, you need to remember that you ARE the most influential role model in their life. The example you set and the conversations you have with them will make an impact, even if you don’t see it.
Remember, you don’t need to have one mega conversation.
Look for ways to have short, precise discussions. We’re all busy, youth included. The point is to have the chats that matter, no matter their length.
If you take the time to talk to your child about alcohol, you can be the person who makes the difference between their becoming an underage drinker or not.