Plenty to discuss when talking to kids about alcohol | Parenting
April 1, 2012 · 6:55 PM
One of the most important discussions parents can have with their children is a discussion about alcohol. Parents are often wary of such a discussion, fearing if they come on too strongly when discussing the dangers of alcohol that their children might be too curious about alcohol to avoid it.
As difficult a discussion as it can be, parents must have an open dialogue with their kids about alcohol and the sooner the better. The Century Council, a not-for-profit organization devoted to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, notes that 39 percent of eighth graders, 58 percent of tenth graders, and 72 percent of twelfth graders have reported trying alcohol at least once. To parents, such figures only highlight the importance of talking to kids about the dangers of alcohol, and why it’s best to avoid alcohol until it’s legal to drink it.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offers the following tips to parents who are ready to discuss alcohol with their child.
- Make it a conversation. Adults don’t like to be lectured to and neither do kids, especially teenagers. When discussing alcohol with a child, parents should make it a conversation and avoid lecturing. Kids will be more comfortable during a conversation and are more likely to open up if they are comfortable.
- Talk to kids about their views on alcohol. The aforementioned statistics indicate that kids, even those who have never tried alcohol, are likely aware of it. Ask kids what they know about alcohol and how they feel about drinking and why they think kids drink before they’re legally allowed to do so. Listen closely, and be careful not to interrupt. Doing so will help kids recognize that their parents value and respect their opinions.
- Share some facts about alcohol. Misinformation reigns with respect to alcohol and adults and children alike are often prone to believing certain myths. However, when discussing alcohol with kids, parents should share some facts to help dispel some of the more common misconceptions about alcohol, including:
- Beer and wine is just as dangerous as hard liquor. A 12-ounce beer and a 5-ounce glass of wine has the same amount of alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. Kids might feel they will be fine if they just consume beer and not hard liquor, but beer is no less safe than liquor, especially when consumed in mass quantities.
- It takes hours for a single drink to leave a person’s system. Common “remedies” like a cold shower or a cup of coffee do not force alcohol out of the body. On average, it takes two to three hours for a single drink to exit a person’s system.
- Alcoholism isn’t just for adults. Kids often feel alcoholism can only develop in adults. However, kids can develop serious alcohol problems as well, and the earlier a person starts drinking alcohol the more likely he or she is to develop such a problem.
- Discuss false portrayals of alcohol consumption. Many kids start drinking alcohol because they feel it’s “cool” to do so. Parents can dispel this popular myth by pointing out the falsehoods about alcohol promoted on television, in the movies and in advertisements.When watching a movie or television show with kids where drinking is portrayed, point out certain falsehoods that are commonly portrayed. For example, explain to kids that characters in the movies or on television are often portrayed as having a great time while drinking, when in reality alcohol often elicits feelings of sadness or anger.
- Explain the longterm effects of drinking alcohol while young. Alcohol affects a young brain in different ways than it does an adult one. In an effort to explain to kids why they should wait until they are legally allowed to drink, explain that drinking while the brain is still maturing can lead to long-lasting intellectual effects, which can impact how well kids are able to do in school and beyond.