As a parent of five girls, between the ages of 5 and 15, I find myself thinking very often about how I am communicating with my children about the things in life that matter the most. I also seem to be thinking back a lot to my own childhood, and reflecting on the ways that my parents communicated with me and my sisters as we were growing up. One issue that has become clear to me is that when I was a teenager, my parents were very involved in my life and I knew that they loved me, BUT they never once told me to avoid underage drinking or warned me of the dangers of drinking alcohol. What their avoidance of this topic caused for me was a sense that I had permission to take part in drinking with my friends in high school and college.
I remember my parents telling me stories of their drinking parties in college, BUT they never once told me that it was wrong and that they regretted it. Highlighting these memories is not for the purpose of criticizing my parents, but rather to remind me of what happened in my life because of it. It also encourages me to be incredibly mindful of the influence of what I say and don't say to my own children.
With all of our daughters, my husband, Mike, and I have been trying to have open communication, and sharing insights from our own growing up years as honestly as possible. It can sometimes feel awkward to approach challenging topics, but the advice I seem to hear often is that the more you can make an attempt at talking with your kids, the better.
Here are some tips from a website, www.parentfurther.com, which is a great resource for research-based advice and tools for parents on a wide range of topics.
Talking with Your Kids about Alcohol Use
It’s important to start communicating with your child about your values and beliefs as early as possible. By maintaining open and honest communication, you can help your children feel comfortable talking with you about difficult issues, such as alcohol use and peer pressure.
Don’t wait for your children to bring up alcohol—use advertisements, news stories, or personal incidents to raise the issue before it becomes a problem. Ask your child what he thinks about the alcohol use he sees on TV, in movies, or among his friends. Point out advertisements that target teens. Talk about your views on underage alcohol use and ask your child what he thinks about it as well.
During the high school years, many kids begin to think they’re old enough for sex, drugs, or alcohol. Talk to your child about how she defines maturity and when she thinks individuals are old enough to engage in these activities. Be clear about why you think she should wait until she’s older and which values your opinions represent.
Talk to your kids at least weekly about the peer pressure they experience or see at school and in their social groups. Some children are more comfortable talking about what they witness, so be patient if your child doesn’t want to talk about his experiences right away. It’s much easier for some kids to talk about what they see before they talk about what they experience.
If you consumed alcohol as a teenager, be honest with your children if they ask about it. Tell them about the consequences you faced.
Talking with your kids about alcohol use isn’t always easy. But it’s important to start the conversation early so you can teach your child the necessary skills to resist alcohol when he or she is faced with a tough decision. Begin talking today so your child’s first lessons about alcohol are from you—and not her or his friends.