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.

Illustration of a dinner party with a kid holding a glass of wine.

2 in 5 PA parents find it acceptable for kids to drink alcohol on "special occasions"

About the same percentage of parents (37%) believe it’s natural for children to experiment with alcohol and trust their child to experiment responsibly.

Tip: To help your child avoid the risks associated with alcohol, it’s important to learn the facts. It’s illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol – regardless of the situation. And children who begin drinking at an early age can be four times more likely to have problems with alcohol later in life.

Dear Parent

Don’t become discouraged if you think they don’t hear you. You will usually find out that they are listening.