Talking about alcohol abuse with your teen or pre-teen is probably not something you’re looking forward to. It’s an uncomfortable subject, especially in families with a history of addiction, and it can be tempting to keep putting it off until a “convenient” moment arises. Many parents don’t know how to address alcohol abuse because they themselves have struggled with addiction. According to statistics, almost half of us have a family history of alcoholism, and one in every 12 adults suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence. 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent on or has abused alcohol.
The purpose of today’s post is to help you talk effectively about alcohol with your child so that he or she doesn’t succumb to the pressure to start drinking. At an age where peers start to exert more and more influence over your child’s opinions and decisions, we parents still have the ability to make a huge impact. Don’t underestimate the influence of your words and example!
It will be very difficult to approach your child about sensitive topics if you’re not already talking on a regular basis about their daily concerns such as school, friends, clothes, activities, and their dreams and ambitions. Take time every day to listen to your child talk about what’s important to him or her, and it will be much easier to bring up difficult topics such as drugs and alcohol when the time is right.
Make Time Together
Create moments for the two of you to be alone together. Do chores together and talk while you’re working. Or, run to the supermarket together—car rides can be a great time to spark up conversation.
Make sure you establish expectations for your child’s behavior, and set appropriate consequences for breaking rules. Let her know what the rules are in relation to alcohol use and what kind of disciplinary action she can expect if you find out that those rules have been broken.
Teach Him How to Say No
Try role-playing and pretend you are a friend who is pressuring him into drinking at a party. Explain how to think through a situation and the potential consequences of his choices. Tell your child that he can use you as an excuse for not drinking or participating in a dangerous activity if he doesn’t want to just say “no.”
Treat your child with respect and kindness. Don’t tease or belittle her, and don’t dismiss her opinions because of her age. When you model respectful behavior, you’re much more likely to get respect in return.
Encourage Your Child
Make sure your child knows that you’re on his side. If you regularly encourage and support him in school, sports and other activities, then your child knows that he has your support when peer pressure comes into play.
Ask your child what she knows about alcohol. What does she hear about it at school? From her friends? What are her concerns? What questions does she have for you about it?
Give Compelling Reasons Not to Drink
Some reasons that will resonate with your teen include:
I, as your parent, don’t want you to drink.
Drinking will not make you cool, popular, or happy.
Not all kids drink or experiment with alcohol.
Drinking is illegal for teenagers, and there are serious legal consequences to getting caught drinking underage.
Drinking can cause you to do embarrassing things that you will likely regret.
Drinking can put you in dangerous situations where you could be hurt or abused.
Drinking can cause permanent damage to your brain and other organs.
Talk Appropriately About Your Experience
If you’ve abused alcohol, or if you used alcohol as a teen, it’s okay to share or not share that experience with your child as you see fit. However, if you do share your story, be sure to emphasize that it was a mistake that you regret. Don’t share funny stories or stories that make light of the issue.
Set a Good Example
Use alcohol in moderation in your home. Don’t use alcohol as a way to escape from your problems or soothe the effects of a difficult day. Don’t host or attend parties where binge drinking is encouraged. Never drink and drive or allow anyone to drive home from your house if they’ve had too much to drink.