April is Alcohol Awareness Month and the 2016 theme is all about talking to teens early and often in an attempt to prevent teen alcohol abuse. As a parent, bringing up the topic of underage drinking is often uncomfortable, but it must be done. If you think about how awkward it is for you, imagine how uncomfortable your child must feel bringing up the subject of teen alcoholism. The only way to be sure your child gets the information they need on alcohol abuse is to take an active role. You must lead a discussion on the dangers of alcohol.
Be sure to follow the discussion on social media by searching for the Alcohol Awareness Month Hashtags: #AlcoholAwareness & #AlcoholAwarenessMonth.
Raising the Subject of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol is everywhere. You can point to an advertisement to start the conversation or use the way people act in a restaurant or at a party. Use anything that makes an easy transition into discussing the realities of the drug that is alcohol. The more natural the opening, the better the flow of conversation.
Alcohol-Free Weekend as a part of Alcohol Awareness Month has passed, but you can still do three days of alcohol avoidance during any part of the year. This is another great way to start a conversation, and to show a person can control when and how they drink alcohol. This is particularly effective if you normally have a drink with dinner, so your teen will notice the absence of your usual glass of wine.
5 Tips to Keep the Conversation on Track
Be Factual but Not Scary
The dangers of driving while under the influence are easy to understand. Let kids know they can be impaired even when they don’t feel drunk . Let them know you are willing to pick them up at anytime, anywhere, with no questions asked. They need to know they have safe options.
Don’t be afraid to get personal. Ever notice that when you tell a kid a story about when you were a kid yourself, they tend to ask more questions? This can help keep the conversation going—your teen may return to the topic several times. Let them see the human side of alcohol use, both the good things you have experienced and the bad.
Try using What If questions to get at the heart of peer pressure and other issues. What would you do in this situation or that situation?
If your child starts telling you a story of a “friend” or someone they know, don’t get hyper-vigilant. Encourage the conversation so they know you are someone they can talk to about these things. Listen supportively, give good advice, take strong stands (“No, it’s never good for a 14-year-old to drink”), but be open to discussion.
Be Clear With Your Requests
Separate the behavior from the child. Kids are going to make mistakes in life, just as you did yourself. Be sure they understand your love for them is unconditional, but that you expect certain behavior from them. Explain the importance of their growing brains. Age limits for drinking are to protect growing people not just from bad behavior, but also from damage to their bodies.
Don’t Ignore the Risks
Smart kids, good kids, obedient kids get involved with drugs and alcohol. If you keep the topic of substance abuse in the shadows, its dangers get bigger. When lying and sneaking past you become the norm, it gets harder and harder for your teen to bring up the subject, ask a question, or share a problem.
Be ready to listen when they want to talk, not just when you want to talk. You can make a difference, even if you are just talking with an eye rolling pre-teen.