Have a plan in mind to spark some conversation.
Bring the topic in as part of casual conversation.
Riding in the car on the way to/from activities. Your child is a captive audience and it’s a perfect setting for one-on-one quality time. You both know, too, that the conversation won’t go on forever — it’s only as long as the ride.
Listening to the music or radio in the car. If you hear lyrics that relate to alcohol, partying or another similar topic, use it as a springboard for engagement. Ask your child what they think about how the substance is portrayed and let them know your point of view.
Gaming together. You’re close together, but focusing on something else, so the conversation doesn’t need to be intense. In between games or levels you can latch onto a topic or fact to talk about with them as part of your quality time.
Doing a one-on-one activity, from sports to homework. While you’re sharing time, share some facts about underage drinking. Tie in the interest you’re focusing on at the time to create a link to something they’re interested in.
Get them talking … and coming back for more conversation.
Ask open ended questions instead of questions that have a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Encourage your child to tell you how he or she feels about the issue you’re bringing up.
Make every conversation a positive experience — don’t lecture or talk down to your child. Listen to what they are saying and allow them to contribute to the conversation.1
Listen to your child without interruption. The more comfortable and validated they feel expressing themselves to you, the more likely they’ll open up when you want to talk about tough topics like alcohol.
Control your emotions. If your child tells you something that goes against your thinking, stay calm and voice your concerns in a constructive way. Find out why they’re thinking a certain way and see if you can provide the facts that could set them straight.
1National 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.
Know your child’s friends — and their parents.
Your child’s friends are an important part of his or her life. How well do you know them?
There are many ways they can be a positive or negative influence. Do they try to get your child to do things he or she would normally not do? Do you know if he or she has tried alcohol, or have older brothers or sisters who drink underage?
Ninety-two percent of PA parents think whether or not a child’s friends use alcohol can have a big effect on their child. Yet 33 percent have never talked to their kids about choosing friends who do not drink.2 Your child’s friends can be the first ones to offer your child alcohol. So get to know them.
Here are ways to know what’s going on in your child’s life:
- Encourage your child to invite friends over when you are at home. It’s a good way to learn about them, what they do and what they think.
- Talk with your child about what qualities are important in a good friend. Are they honest and kind? Do they treat your child the same when they are one-on-one as they do in a group?
- Connect with other parents. Cultivating friendly relationships now will make you feel comfortable giving the other parent a call if you have a concern in the future, such as what kind of adult supervision will there be at the slumber party.
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.
Be patient and take small steps. The topic is complex and you don’t want to overwhelm your child.