Believe it or not, even when your teen scoffs or rolls her eyes, your opinion matters — and that includes your views on drinking. Alcohol can be a tough topic to broach for any parent, but it’s one of the most important conversations you can have. If you’re not quite sure how to proceed, here are some helpful tips from the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility:
• Current events can provide a great segue into the subject of drinking. Refer to media reports related to alcohol online, on TV or in print to get the discussion going.
• Take advantage of daily opportunities to talk. Whether you chat with your child over breakfast or debrief over dinner, this is a great time to gain insight into what’s going on in her life. The more you converse with your teen and show interest in her world, the easier it will get to ask the tough questions — and the more likely you are to gain her trust and get honest answers.
• Have a conversation — not an argument. Kids of any age need to feel safe sharing their thoughts and feelings, which means parents must listen and avoid responses that are judgmental or condescending. If you hear them out and show you care what they have to say, you’ll be rewarded with their attention and respect.
• Make your expectations known and establish consequences — boundaries are essential in any relationship, especially between parent and child, so make sure your teen knows where yours lie. Plainly tell them your views on drinking — and explain why. Then, make it very clear what will happen if the house rules on drinking are broken. Some consequences may include grounding, curfew, or loss of driving or phone/internet privileges. If your teen confesses to misbehavior involving alcohol, express appreciation for her honesty, but also hold her accountable.
Emphasize that underage drinking is illegal, so the penalty if caught by a police officer likely will be harsher and out of your hands. Also, make sure your teen understands that the consequences of drinking and driving, or getting into a car with someone who’s intoxicated, can be devastating, irreversible and often fatal.
• Above all, be straightforward and give your child the facts. Alcohol impairs judgment, affects many of the body’s systems and organs and can lead to dependence or even death if abused. Developing a healthy, responsible attitude toward drinking while they are young can head off many problems later in life, so don’t hesitate to have the talk.