As a blogger, I may be compensated in some way (either pay, product, or experience) for sharing the post below All opinions are my own. ~Heidi
My youngest son is 11 years old. We homeschool, so it’s often easy to think that we don’t have to talk to him about things like drugs, alcohol, and sex because he’s not exposed to these things at school. However, thinking that way is wrong! Somehow – whether it’s at church, a sporting event, or something seen or heard on TV or out and about – he hears about these things. And, whether we always know it or not, he has questions. So, I like to try to keep the lines of communication open and I like to be well-prepared with answers for him when he asks. (Trust me, he’s caught me off guard on more than one occasion!)
Lately, I’ve been thinking of ways to breach the subject of underage drinking with him. We are not heavy drinkers in this house. My husband never takes a drink. But, my oldest daughter and I do enjoy an occasional drink of wine in the evenings, so there’s definitely opportunity to talk about drinking with my son. We’ve talked briefly about how he’s not old enough to drink wine, but I want to sit down and have a more serious, open discussion with him soon; so I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to make this successful.
Here are 4 easy steps to keep in mind when thinking about discussing alcohol with your kids:
#1 Talk early and often.
As kids get older, they start to listen to everyone but their parents! (I know this is true because I was a kid once.) However, kids between the ages of 8 and 11 are most receptive to input from their parents. So, the time to breach the subject of underage drinking with them is NOW, while they’re still willing to listen and receive your advice. Make it very clear to them that you disapprove of underage drinking!
And, don’t just make the time for one big discussion! There doesn’t have to be one big intimidating talk. Plan to introduce the subject and allow time for questions. And, as the questions continue over time, be prepared with answers. Also, be sure to take the time to sit down and talk to your child, face-to-face (don’t always be too busy doing other things that you can’t sit down with your child).
Make yourself a good source of information for them so they don’t feel the need to go searching for answers elsewhere (peers, the internet, and other media are never a good place for kids to go looking for answers!)
#2 Give the facts and share the effects of alcohol.
If you hear about an accident caused by a drunk driver, that’s a great time to start a conversation about underage drinking with your child. You don’t want your talk to be full of scare tactics, but be open and honest. Explain to your child that underage drinking carries serious risks that can negatively impact a child’s development, cause nerve and brain damage, preclude participation in sports and activities, and significantly increase risks for alcoholism and other abuse disorders later in life.
Your child knows that you love them, so make it very clear to them that, because of that, you don’t want them to be adversely affected in any of these ways. Drinking now could lead to big problems in their future!
#3 Encourage other activities and teach them to say, “No!”
1-in-3 kids have tried alcohol before the age of 8! That’s a staggering statistic! I know my son isn’t one of those children – yet! But, I’m not naive enough to think that he couldn’t be part of another statistic involving underage drinking. So, I want to explain to him the importance of saying, “no.” While we explain to him that drinking isn’t an option for him and we’d never allow it in our house, that might not be the case when he’s visiting friends and finds himself in a tempting situation.
As with other areas of his life, I try really hard to teach him that when he’s tempted to do something that he knows is wrong, he needs to find something else to do to fill his time. I have told him many times that when he feels tempted, to walk away from the temptation and go outside and kick a soccer ball around, head to the couch and read a favorite book, or find another fun hobby to participate in.
#4 – Model healthy habits.
It’s not enough just to share words with your child. The most important thing that you, as a parent, can do is to MODEL responsible behavior! You can do this by using everyday opportunities and circumstances to discuss the risks and consequences of underage drinking with them.
So, let’s do this! Let’s talk to our kids about alcohol NOW! Are you with me? You might get that “deer in the headlights” or a glazed over look, but just keep talking! Let’s raise kids who can say, “no!” now and grow up to be responsible adults.
If you’re looking for more ideas on ways to talk to your kids about alcohol and underage drinking, I’d highly recommend checking out this new website from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board – KnowWhenKnowHow.org.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.