Young girl looking into fridge with alcohol.

Most children who start drinking alcohol first get it at home. So it’s important for parents to monitor what adult beverages they have in their home, and keep them stored where children can’t get to it.

Do you keep alcohol out of reach of your kids? Seven out of 10 Pennsylvania parents don’t.1

Most parents in Pennsylvania keep alcohol in their homes, and more than half of them think it would be easy for their kids to get to that alcohol without their knowledge.

Some parents lock up their liquor (gin, rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey), but not their beer and wine. The thought is that the beer and wine are at least “safer” than the “hard stuff.” The truth is that a 12-oz can of beer, a 5-oz glass of wine and 1.5 oz of 80-proof liquor all contain the same amount of alcohol2 — and all should be off-limits to children.

Make it clear what the rules of your house are, and make sure that your child knows the consequences for not following them.

Some possible framework for your set of rules:

  • No drinking, under any circumstances, until age 21 — it’s illegal.
  • The place where alcohol is kept in the house is off-limits to kids.
  • If wine or other alcohol is kept in the refrigerator, it’s meant only to be handled by adults.
  • Older siblings will not give younger brothers or sisters alcohol or encourage them to drink.
  • Kids are not allowed to attend parties where there is alcohol.
  • Set up a system for your child to bail from a peer pressure situation. If your child is at a friend’s house where kids are drinking, they can text you a signal like “X,” and you’ll know to call to say they have to come home asap. That way they have an “out” (“sorry, my mom says I have to come home”) without having to confront the alcohol issue or peer pressure directly.
  • At family events where alcohol is present, kids are not to sip or consume any of the alcohol. If someone offers them a taste, they should tell you.

1PLCB Underage Drinking Survey, Summary of findings from statewide telephone research with Pennsylvanian parents of children under 21, Center for Opinion Research, February 2017.

2National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (U.S.), “Make A Difference: Talk To Your Child about Alcohol,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, last modified 2009.

Boy blows candle on birthday cake with his 2 friends.

1 in 3 Kids have tried alcohol by age 8

By age 12, the number of kids who have tried alcohol increases to 2 in 3.

Tip: The earlier you start talking to your child about alcohol, the better. Early engagement can help your child avoid future problems with alcohol.

Dear Parent

Don’t expect your child to remember everything you’ve talked about. Use repetition to reinforce key points.