How to Talk to Your Children About Alcohol Use

Mom and daughter talkingBy Linnay Harmer and Mary Dykeman –

Children and teenagers are naturally curious about alcohol – they see people drinking- and they want to know more. Kids will be influenced by their friends, their teachers, TV, films and the media – but in most cases, parents have the biggest influence on their children’s behavior. So you’re in a good position to make sure they have the facts about alcohol and drinking, and can make sensible choices in the future.

The time to start talking to them about underage drinking is now.

It’s easy to underestimate how early underage drinking begins, as well as the amount of alcohol teens drink and the risks involved. Still, underage drinking isn’t inevitable. You can encourage your teen to avoid alcohol by talking to him or her about the risks of underage drinking such as incurring a DUI charge (you could view here to check out the various ways to defend yourself in situations such as this and the charges you might incur for the same) or maybe a possible accident, and the importance of making good decisions.

Teens are particularly vulnerable to alcohol use. The physical changes of puberty might make your teen feel self-conscious and more likely to take risks – like experimenting with alcohol – to fit in or please others. Coping with stress and challenging transitions, such as going from middle school to high school, moving, or dealing with the effects of divorce, might also influence a teen to drink. Your teen might have trouble understanding that his or her actions can have harmful consequences in case they are caught driving under influence. Hence, it would be wise to keep them informed that they can try these attorneys here, who can provide assistance in a drunk driving case. It would help them remain mentally strong if they ever fall prey to one such scenario, maybe due to peer pressure.

Other risk factors include:

  • Family problems, such as conflict or parental alcohol abuse
  • Childhood abuse or other major trauma,
  • Behavior or mental health problems
  • Close friendships with teens who drink or use other drugs

Whatever causes a teen to drink, the consequences might be the same including alcohol-related fatalities, which are a leading cause of teen deaths. Teen drownings, suicides and murders also have been linked with alcohol use. Teens who drink tend to become sexually active earlier and have sex more often than teens who don’t drink and they are also more likely to have unprotected sex. Teens who drink tend to have more academic and school conduct problems than do teens who don’t drink. People who begin drinking as young teens are more likely to develop alcohol dependence. Teens who drink are more likely to be hurt in a violent crime, such as, sexual assault.

You might be unsure of what to say…

It can be tough to talk to your teen about underage drinking.You might be unsure of what to say, and your teen might try to dodge the conversation. To increase your odds of having a meaningful discussion, choose a time when you and your teen are relaxed. Don’t worry about covering everything at once. If you talk often, you might have a greater impact on your teen than if you have only a single discussion. All you have to do is be honest about your feelings and tell them about the news you’ve been reading. If you know anything about the law, casually tell them about Juvenile Crime Consequences, and then listen to what they have to say. Most of the time, you can judge a person based solely on what they say.

When you talk about underage drinking, you might:

  • Ask your teen’s views. Find out what your teen knows and thinks about alcohol.
  • Share facts. Explain that alcohol is a powerful drug that slows the body and mind, and that anyone can develop an alcohol problem – even a teen without risk factors for alcohol abuse.
  • Debunk myths. Teens often think that drinking makes them popular or happy. Explain that alcohol can make you feel “good,” but it’s a depressant that also can cause sadness and anger.
  • Discuss reasons not to drink. Avoid scare tactics. Instead, explain the risks and appeal to your teen’s self-respect. If you have a family history of alcoholism or drinking problems, be honest with your teen. Strongly discourage your teen from trying alcohol – even as an adult – since there’s a considerable chance that your teen could develop an alcohol problem, too.
  • Plan ways to handle peer pressure. Brainstorm with your teen about how to respond to offers of alcohol. It might be as simple as saying, “No thanks” or “Do you have any soda?”

The best thing you can do is be honest with your child and make this an ongoing topic of conversation in your household.

Linnay Harmer and Mary Dykeman are Prevention Specialists at Cortland Prevention Resources. If you need help talking to your youth about alcohol or drug use, Cortland Prevention Resources is here to support you. Call 756-8970 or visit the website at