Use what you know about your child to craft your conversation.

Recommended age ranges provide parents with a “heads up” for when they should talk to their kids about alcohol — bottom line, the earlier the better. But children mature at different rates and parents will be more successful in engaging their children if they use what makes them unique.

Is your child excited by science? There’s plenty of information about the brain and overall body systems that have to do with alcohol. Is he or she a wizard at math? There are a lot of statistics and numbers that can help you share important facts on underage drinking.

As most elementary-school-aged children have a limited attention span, your best approach is to share one point at a time, just enough for them to process. You may find a path they are receptive to or need to try another one.

Teaching your child to avoid underage drinking isn’t about having one “big talk.” It’s actually better to just start talking … have multiple, shorter conversations over an extended period of time, adding topics as they grow up.

Turn everyday situations into teachable moments.

Teachable moments aren’t something you need to schedule. They are opportunities you find during the course of a day that lets you share the facts about alcohol with your child.

Below are a few themes you can build upon. Just remember, you want to encourage a dialogue with your child, so try to ask open-ended questions instead of those that only require a yes/no response.

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

If there’s alcohol abuse or addiction in your family, consider using situations your child has seen as teachable moments.