Mom driving van with her young son.

Why is it a good idea to start talking early?

Most of the parents surveyed for this campaign thought that 12 or 13 was a good age to talk with their kids about alcohol.

But according to the Journal of Adolescent Health, 37 percent of all children in the U.S. have already tried alcohol by age 8. And by age 12 that number jumps to 66 percent. So waiting until a child is almost a teen may be too late.1

But how early should a parent begin?

Most research confirms that at age 6 almost all kids have a negative opinion of alcohol and want no part of it. So that may be too early.

But shortly after that, kids’ attitudes toward alcohol can begin to change. Around the time they are 8 to 11, they may begin to think differently about alcohol because of the world they see around them or their interactions with friends, family or others.

This timeframe has also been shown to be a window of opportunity for parents2 — it is when they can have the greatest influence on their child’s attitudes toward alcohol.

1Donovan, JE and BSG Molina, “Types of Alcohol Use Experience from Childhood through Adolescence,” Journal of Adolescent Health 53, no. 4 (2013): 453-459.

2KidsHealth from Nemours, “Kids and Alcohol: Talking to Kids About Alcohol,” last reviewed March 2014.

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.