According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), over one-third of children by the age of 15 have had at least one alcoholic drink, with that number nearly doubling by the time they reach 18. Alcohol is a very important discussion you want to have with your children – they will learn about it at some point or another, and it’s better they hear the dangers and consequences that can be associated with drinking from you than from friends who may be trying to peer pressure them. As far as age goes, it’s up to you and what you feel comfortable with – although many parents are teaching their children as young as 5 to 10 years old due to direct access of information that comes with them using technology.
There are many appropriate steps that you can take to discussing alcohol use with your child or teen. Here are a few key pointers:
- Build a strong relationship with your child so that they can fully trust you. Establish open communication, offer acceptance, show that you care, form clear expectations of your child, and understand that your child is growing up and, especially as they become a teenager, they do need some independence and privacy.
- Encourage your child to engage in conversation with you about the topic. What do they currently know? How do they feel about alcohol? What do they believe are the consequences of drinking too much? Do they know what responsible drinking is? Open-ended questions are also great because it encourages conversation.
- Avoid “lecturing” or trying to constantly correct your child if they’re wrong – this will likely push them away rather than listen to what you have to say.
- Explain to your child the benefits of waiting to drink until they’re older: state your own personal wishes for them not to, that drinking for them is illegal, that you want them to maintain their self-respect, that drinking can be dangerous, if your family has a history of alcoholism, etc.
Discuss with your children important myths surrounding alcohol, such as that it is a “magic potion” as often depicted on media – or ways of handling peer pressure. You’d much rather want your child to be guarded with the facts than to be confronted by pressures to drink and not know how to navigate the situation. Lastly, show your child what it means to drink responsibly. If you currently struggle with alcohol use, seek help. Showing them how to seek help is okay, too.
Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, call us today at 888-743-0490 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.