Talking about alcohol is a two-way street

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Responsible parents face a dilemma: how to talk to their children about alcohol without creating a mystique to make drinking all that much more attractive.

It's quite a balancing act, but during Alcohol Awareness Month, Scot Adams, director behavioral health for the Department of Health and Human Services offers some tips to help parents stay on an even keel.

"Kids are curious about alcohol, and studies show that 40 percent will try it by the time they reach eighth grade," he said. "Talk early and talk often to your children about drinking. It's the first step toward keeping them alcohol-free. More than 70 percent of children say parents are the leading influence in their decision to drink or not."

And not every child is the same. Between 9 and 13, children start to think differently about alcohol, and many begin to think underage drinking is OK and start to experiment.

Your best bet?

* Have short, frequent discussions about alcohol. While it's never too early to talk to your children about alcohol, it's especially important through adolescence and the pressure increases during junior high and high school.

* Talking often builds an open, trusting relationship with your child. Children are more likely to avoid drinking when they have a strong, trusting relationship with parents. Chatting with your child every day makes it easier when it's time to have a serious conversation about things like alcohol.

* When you do talk about alcohol, make your views and rules clear. Take time to discuss your beliefs and use a clear, consistent message that underage drinking is unacceptable. When children feel you're being honest with them, they'll be more likely to respect your rules about underage drinking.

* As children get older, the conversation changes. What you say to a 9-year-old about alcohol is different from what you say to a 15-year-old.

* The conversation goes both ways. Children who can ask questions and have parents who listen to their feelings and concerns are more likely to say "no" to alcohol.

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