You have more power than you realize.

Most parents tend to think their kids don’t listen to them about underage drinking. But according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the number one reason kids choose not to drink is because their parents disapprove. In fact, 80 percent of teens say their parents are the biggest influence on their decision of whether or not to drink.1

As a parent, you have tremendous power to steer your child away from alcohol. The key is to start talking with them when your influence over them is greatest.

But when is that? While each kid is different, the answer is always: Early — before you think you need to. Before they reach middle school.

Why? Because they’re already weighing the pros and cons while in elementary school. And according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children start to think positively about alcohol between the ages of 9 and 13.2 So you want to use your positive influence before someone else influences them in the wrong direction.

To prevent underage drinking, it’s more effective for parents to use their power to start influencing their child’s thinking about alcohol early — before they’ve formed an opinion — instead of trying to change their impression later.

1Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Why You Should Talk With Your Child About Alcohol,” last modified September 20, 2017.

2Siqueira, L. VC Smith, Comm Subst Abuse, and Committee on Substance Abuse, “Binge Drinking,” Pediatrics 136, no. 3 (2015): E718-E726.

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

Be patient and take small steps. The topic is complex and you don’t want to overwhelm your child.