How to Talk With Your Children About Alcohol

In honor of today's PowerTalk 21 event, Hopkins Patch invited a local expert to share some tips for how parents can talk with their children about alcohol.

(Editor’s note: Brenda Badger is the coordinator for Hopkins Community Coalition: One Voice—a community-wide effort aimed at decreasing the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs among youth in the Hopkins Public Schools. In honor of today's PowerTalk 21 event, Hopkins Patch invited her to share some tips for how parents can talk with their children about alcohol.)

The Hopkins Community Coalition: ONE VOICE for Reducing Youth Chemical Use urges parents and caregivers to participate in PowerTalk 21, sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving on April 21st. PowerTalk 21 is a national day, started by MADD for parents to start talking with their kids about alcohol.

MADD has created an excellent handbook for parents called, Power of Parents, It’s Your Influence to help parents have these important conversations to help keep their child safe, legal and healthy.  

(Click on the PDF to the right of this page to download the handbook or visit this website.)

Here are a few tips/suggestions from the handbook Power of Parents, It’s Your Influenceby MADD:

How to Start a Conversation with your Child:

  • Think about a time that works best for your child’s schedule
  • Pick a time when your teen is likely to be okay with talking (a more private setting – not in front of peers)
  • Show you are open-minded and ask about his/her experiences
  • Ask thought-provoking questions in non-threatening way
  • Example questions:
    • Do you know kids (in general, no names) who drink?
    • How has it affected them?
    • Have you ever been offered alcohol by someone you knew?
    • If so, what did you say?  If not, what might you say?
    • What if someone really pushes you?
    • Do you see any risks involved with drinking?
  • Emphasize these themes: you care about him/her, you want to understand him/her, want to help, and respect their desire to be independent 

Be Prepared:

  • Know and share the facts ( see handbook) as you communicate your values
  • Actively LISTEN – don’t interrupt your teen
  • Emphasize common goals, let them know you are on their side
  • Don’t prepare a lecture – door will likely close on the conversation
  • Focus on the positives in teen’s life
  • Discuss consequences ahead of time and be able your family can live with consequences if you need to use them
  • Ask yourself “What’s holding me back?” — see handbook for reasons that parents hesitate to start the conversation

5 Reasons for Avoiding Alcohol Use that Teens Respect:

  • Underage drinking is illegal
  • Drinking alcohol can make you sick or pass out
  • Drinking can lead to sexual assault or an early death   
  • Drinking might lead to an alcohol addiction
  • Risk of losing parents’ trust

Finally, keep the conversation going!  Speak with “ONE VOICE” and MADD to help keep our youth safe, legal and healthy.

Jo Clare Hartsig April 21, 2011 at 04:36 PM
As a parent and youth ally I am thankful for the work of Brenda Badger and One Voice. One Voice materials, events, and people consistently help to remind us that there are so many ways we can support the youth in our community to make good choices! Thank you for highlighting this great Hopkins (and beyond!) resource.


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