Talk to Your Kids About Alcohol

Talk to Your Kids About Alcohol

What’s the harm in letting a young person try alcohol? Plenty. While drinking in moderation as an adult might be fine, kids’ brains aren’t mature enough to handle any amount of alcohol. That’s why it’s critical for parents to talk to their kids about the pitfalls of alcohol and underage drinking. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests beginning this discussion as early as age 9.

Reasons to have the talk sooner rather than later:

  • Alcohol can damage the developing brain of a child.
  • The younger a child starts drinking, the more likely he or she will have a problem with alcohol as an adult.
  • Drinking alcohol can lead to lower grades.
  • Alcohol use is frequently linked with unsafe sex.

So where do you start? First and foremost, bring up the conversation about alcohol casually, in a non-threatening way. Remember, your rules, values and attitudes matter to your child, even though he or she may not always show it.

Reasons for kids to forgo drinking alcohol:

  • Maintaining self-respect. Alcohol can lead to embarrassing situations or events, things that can damage a child or teen’s self-respect, or affect important relationships.
  • Drinking can be dangerous. Alcohol-related car crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds. Tell your kids to never drink and drive, or accept a ride from someone who has been drinking. Because drinking alcohol impairs judgement, it can also make young people more vulnerable to sexual assault, unprotected sex and other potentially hazardous activities.
  • It’s illegal. Getting caught with alcohol under the age of 21 has legal implications. Even if your child is caught and avoids police action, his or her friends may no longer be allowed to socialize with him or her.
  • Alcohol affects young people differently. Drinking alcohol during brain maturation can have long-term intellectual effects and may boost the likelihood of dependence later in life.

Conquering Myths About Peer Pressure

Movies and other media often imply that drinking alcohol makes you cool, popular and/or more attractive. Combat the myths by pointing out these false portrayals and underscoring the downsides of using alcohol, including triggering feelings of insecurity, sadness and anger.

Along with encouraging your child to avoid alcohol, you should also help him or her formulate a plan for resisting peer pressure. Make it clear you’ll always be in your child’s corner and available for support, anytime and anywhere. The more prepared your son or daughter is, the more he or she will be able to effectively handle high-pressure situations involving drinking.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a free interactive app that can help you learn the do’s and don’ts of talking to your kids about alcohol, questions to ask and ideas to keep the conversation going.

Holland Hospital Behavioral Health Services treats people of all ages in a comfortable and confidential setting. If you have concerns about a family member’s alcohol or substance use, our experts can help.

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  • Tracy McGee, MA, LLP

    Tracy McGee, MA, LLP

    Tracy is a Limited Licensed Psychologist at Holland Hospital's Behavioral Health Services where she works with children and families ages 4 through the elder years: depression, anxiety, bipolar, substance abuse. Tracy is a trauma-informed therapist with a specialty in addiction and offers individual, family, couples, and group therapy. She lives in Holland, with her spouse. She is active in organic gardening and animal rescue.

    All blogs by Tracy McGee, MA, LLP

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