How to Talk to Kids About Underage Drinking
The statistics regarding underage drinking are alarming. The average age for a first drink is 14, and one out of three kids will try alcohol before they’re eight years old. Although the legal drinking age in every state is 21, people from 12 to 20 are responsible for 11 percent of alcohol consumption in the U.S. What’s more, kids who start drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol dependency issue at some point in their lives.
As a parent, you can play a crucial role in preventing your kids from engaging in underage drinking. You can start by being a good role model by demonstrating responsible alcohol consumption behavior around your children. Finding ways to talk to your kids about the dangers is also one of the more effective solutions to underage drinking, and it’s probably easier to do than you think. Here are four tips to help.
1. Be Casual
Avoid starting the conversation with a phrase like “we need to talk about something important.” You’ll immediately raise your child’s defenses and make the situation uncomfortable for both of you. Instead, pick a time when you’re relaxing at home and casually broach the subject. Don’t interrogate your child — ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer. For instance, if you’re watching a TV show where one of the characters is drinking, you can ask your son or daughter what they think about the behavior.
2. Find Out What They Know
Kids often know more than their parents think they do about a lot of things, including drinking. Ask a simple question like “what do you know about alcohol?” and allow your child to elaborate. You’ll likely gain a better understanding of their knowledge level regarding alcohol and its effects. You might even be able to tell if they’ve already started drinking, especially if it sounds like they’re speaking from personal experience.
3. Take Age Into Account
You’ll need to talk to a teenager differently than an eight-year-old child about alcohol consumption. With a teen, drinking can have consequences such as losing a driver’s license or being kicked off a sports team, so you’ll want to mention these and other potential ramifications during your discussions. You might be able to “scare” younger kids by warning them about the physical dangers of drinking or how they could get into major trouble with their parents if they get caught.
4. Talk About Possible Scenarios
Taking a proactive approach such as discussing scenarios they’re likely to face — and how to get out of them — can help your kids avoid underage drinking. For example, if your child has a cell phone, give them a code word they can text to you if they find themselves in a situation where alcohol is present. You can then call them, so they can use the excuse that you need them to do something at home right away.
Kids also may find themselves in situations where friends are trying to find ways to get alcohol, such as stealing it from an adult’s liquor cabinet, getting someone older to purchase it for them or even trying to buy it themselves. Talk to your child about suggesting alternative activities when these circumstances arise, such as going to the movies or the mall, that can get their friends’ minds off their quest to obtain alcohol.
Getting Help for Teenage Drinking Legal Issues
Even if you make an effort to talk to your children about underage drinking, peer pressure and other factors can make it hard for them to resist the temptation. An arrest for underage drinking can have severe consequences, especially for older teenagers. If you’re in the York, PA, area, MPL Law Firm can provide the legal help your child needs to achieve the best possible outcome. Contact us to schedule a consultation.