The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (holy department title!) has a new resource for parents to help prevent underage drinking that encourages talking to our kids early and often about the dangers of alcohol.
The Scary Facts
40% of kids have tried alcohol by the time they reach 8th grade and those who first use alcohol before age 15 are SIX times more likely to have alcohol problems than those who start drinking after 21.
I have two kids – based on those statistics it’s likely one of them will try alcohol BEFORE the age of 15. That means I have 12 years to influence them in the right direction. Plenty of time, right? Well, the problem is that many parents put it off (and put it off and put it off) until it’s too late. The main point of the SAMHSA program is to talk to kids early. My kids are too young to sit down and have a conversation about why they shouldn’t drink alcohol, but I think the point is that you should start talking before it becomes an issue.
Start Talking Before They Start Drinking
Between the ages of 9 and 13, children start to think differently about alcohol. Many children begin to think underage drinking is OK and some even start to experiment. It’s never too early to talk to your children about alcohol, and encourage them to talk with you.1
The good news? “Over 70% of children say parents are the leading influence in their decision to drink or not.”2 As parents we do have an impact on the choices our kids make. We need to step up and have the hard discussions that are important and necessary, no matter how uncomfortable.
Create an Action Plan
If your kids are an appropriate age for a discussion about the dangers of alcohol, you create an Action Plan to help make the conversation easier. Answer 3 questions, and you’ll get a step-by-step guide with tips and advice on when and how to talk to your kids.
No matter how old your child is you know that you are not their only influencer. Peers, teachers, and neighbors all play a part in our children’s lives. Talk to other adults about the conversations you’re having with your child about alcohol and encourage them to do the same, or at a minimum reinforce the message. Get others involved by sharing the website.
Talk EARLY. Talk OFTEN. Get Others INVOLVED to prevent underage drinking. For more information visit http://www.underagedrinking.samhsa.gov.
So this post has me thinking… At what point do conversations with our kids become difficult? As the mother of young kids, I don’t hesitate to tell them what’s dangerous and I’m constantly talking about the behavior I expect from them. I’m asking because I’m really curious. When does talking to kids about difficult subjects become a challenge?