Talk to your Child

How do I talk with my son or daughter about alcohol?

1. Listen
Being an effective communicator means listening to what the other person is saying. With kids, it's important to take the time to listen to them when they're ready to talk. Answering with “just a minute” or “later” discourages them from opening up to you. When they want to talk, try to devote your full attention to them, even if it means dropping what you're doing.

Good listeners?

  • Try to understand your child's point of view.
  • Acknowledge your child's feelings, for example by saying, “I know how hard it is for you to talk to me about this, and I appreciate that you did. I'm always willing to listen to you.”
  • Nod your head and make eye contact to show that you are actively listening.
  • Ask questions. Avoid yes or no questions; instead ask open-ended questions like, “What do you think of that?” or ”What was the best part of your day?”

2. Respond
To show your child that you are listening and to encourage conversation, say things like:

  • “It seems that you have some pretty strong feelings about this. How do you feel?”
  • “Do you mean that...?”
  • “So it sounds like you're saying...”
  • “I don't quite understand what you're saying. What do you mean?”

3. How to say it
Before you talk with your son or daughter about alcohol, think about finding your own words, time, and place. Planning will help the conversation go more smoothly.

4. Making time
Spending time alone with your child encourages talking. These times don't have to be elaborate pre-planned dates; it can be times that you are alone in the car together, taking a walk, eating, or playing together. If you have more than one child, spend special time with each of them individually. Older children may dominate the conversation, and younger ones may be at a different developmental level, needing different vocabulary and information. If your child isn't ready to open up to you at first, give it time and patience.

5. Clear rules
Tell your kids bluntly that you do not want them drinking alcohol. Don't assume that they know what your stance is. Set specific rules, such as:

  • “If you're at a party and you see drugs or alcohol being used, the rule is to leave that party. You can call me and I'll come get you.”
  • “I've been thinking lately that I never actually told you this: I don't want you to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or marijuana, or do any other illegal drugs.”
  • “I love you, and want the best for you, so I don't want you drinking.”
  • “The rule in our house is that kids don't drink.”

6. Lines kids can use
Role-play with your child and have them practice lines they can use if they are offered the opportunity to drink alcohol. Suggest lines like:

  • “No, thanks. It's not for me.”
  • “Why would I want to mess up a good thing? I'm fine with the way
    I am.”
  • “You're kidding, right? Why would I do something so dumb?”
  • “No way, man. Drinking is stupid.”
  • “Can't do it. Gotta get home.”
  • “I can't drink. I have a big test tomorrow.”
  • “I tried drinking and I threw up.”
  • “That's illegal. I don't want to get in trouble.”
  • “I have a big game tomorrow.”
  • “I could get kicked off the team if anyone found out.”