If your child is ten years old, is it too soon to begin the talk with them about alcohol? No way! According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is the #1 drug of choice among youth. Genetics and environment play a huge role in their decision to start drinking. If you or a family member are suffering from alcoholism or you have a family history of alcohol abuse, it is crucial to begin the discussion with your children at an early age to ensure they don’t follow the same destructive pathway.
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To begin the discussion with your child about the importance of staying clean and sober, you must understand what alcoholism is.
- Alcoholism is a chronic relapsing brain disease.
- It is characterized by the inability to limit how much and how often you drink.
- Alcoholism comes in two forms: alcohol dependency and alcohol abuse.
- Both require continuous treatment and a lifelong commitment to sobriety.
Talking with your kids about alcohol can be a challenge for any parent. Understanding that is not going to be easy and is a discussion you need to plan ahead for is half the battle. It is best to start talking with your kids around 10 years of age. Although most youth don’t begin drinking until at least age 14, early adolescence is the time when they are beginning to experiment with new things. Use these tips to make sure your message is crystal clear and is a lesson that will stay with your child.
To prepare yourself, first consider the following:
- What are the issues you want to address? Make a list to reference to help bring you back to the topic at hand when your teen resists or tries to dodge the subject.
- Consider how he/she may react and ways you can bring them back to the conversation.
- Determine the best time to have this talk with your child. When will they be most relaxed and non-confrontational?
- Prioritize your talking points. You don’t have to worry about fitting it all in over one sit-down. It’s best to make this an ongoing discussion.
Starting the Conversation
When bringing up the subject, it’s helpful to start by letting them lead the discussion. Ask:
- What do you think about alcohol and drinking?
- What do you think about other kids drinking?
- Have you learned any interesting facts about drinking?
Keeping it Conversational
You want to do everything you can to keep this a conversation and not a lecture.
- Ask open-ended questions and wait for an answer, no matter how long they give you silence.
- Actively listen without interruption.
- Keep your emotions in check. Do not show anger or frustration.
- Praise them for honesty.
- Make them feel as though they are teaching YOU something.
Once they explain their thoughts on alcohol and drinking, now is a great time to work together to create a combined list of the best reasons to decide NOT to drink.
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- Drinking is illegal and can land them in serious trouble.
- Deciding not to drink is a sign of self-respect.
- Your family has a history of alcoholism and the child is at high risk of developing a dependency if they start.
- Drinking can cause permanent damage to the adolescent brain.
- Making their own choices and not allowing their peers to pressure them down the wrong path.
Addressing Peer Pressure
It is inevitable there will come a time when your child is faced with making a choice to follow the crowd and give in to peer pressure or stand firm on their decision to say no. Although the discussion of combating these situations can be an awkward one for your teen to have with you, deep inside, they too wish they had a plan in place for when friends may put them in an uncomfortable situation.
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- Brainstorm with your teen on when these situations may occur and how they may handle it.
- Come up with a list of responses he/she may say when offered a drink.
- “Are you kidding me? I’ll never make varsity if I start with that!”
- “No way. I’ve seen what that does to my Uncle. I’m not going there!”
- “That stuff makes me sick!”
- “You’re crazy! Why would you drink that stuff?”
Leading by Example
Actions speak louder than words. It is helpful to have these discussions with your children, but if you don’t lead by example and provide an environment that supports the same values you want him/her to live by, you are increasing the chances that they will follow in your lead. Set some ground rules and ensure the entire family follows them including you.
- Make sure you are using alcohol moderately.
- Don’t talk about alcohol in a positive way, such as “What a bad day, I need a drink!”
- Don’t share funny stories about drinking in your past.
- Never drink and drive.
- Show your children that there are healthy ways to cope with stress and get them involved in practicing these strategies with you.
Supporting the ongoing discussion of alcohol use with your child can make a huge impact on their future. Your words will make a difference and influence their decision to make sobriety a value they live by. Act now and keep the conversation going. You have the power to protect your children from this debilitating lifelong addiction.
[author image=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/_/focus/photos/public/AIbEiAIAAABECIuIgpC8-t79hQEiC3ZjYXJkX3Bob3RvKihiMmQwZDBhYzNkOWQ2MGQzMWIwOTcwZWM3ZjNlMDY1NGVmNjEwMjdhMAF1MlvPd049sQ5a-jXpXIwOIB1P_Q?sz=64″ ]Adrienne is a health-conscious blogger who writes at Miss Rx.[/author]