Alcohol, Parents and Kids

Because of the powerful influence they have on their children, parents have the most important role in determining whether or not their children will experience alcohol or other drug related problems.Talking with your kids about drinking can be difficult. Even parents who give their children a clear “just say no” message about illegal drugs find it hard to be as tough with their children about alcohol use.

Even though alcohol is a depressant drug, it is legal for adults to use and many parents do drink at home occasionally. It’s the social acceptance of alcohol that makes it one of the most dangerous drugs that children will have contact with. What other drugs can children get a hold of by simply opening the refrigerator or cabinet door at home? Be aware that it’s alcohol – not heroin, marijuana, meth or cocaine – that’s responsible for accidents resulting in the leading cause of death for youths 15-24 years of age.

Talk to them early

Many parents make the mistake of waiting until their children are driving or in high school before talking about alcohol-related problems. While it is important to talk about alcohol use with teenagers, studies show that many attitudes about alcohol and other drugs are formed much earlier in a child’s life.

Most children have their first alcohol or other drug experience between the ages of 10 and 14. That’s why it is so important to begin talking openly and naturally about alcohol and other drugs to your children between kindergarten and third grade. This will help them to accept your views and information rather than relying on peers, television, movies and magazines.

Counteract pro alcohol messages

Children are receiving powerful messages about alcohol from the media, their friends, families and from your own attitudes and behaviors. As a parent, you cannot control all of the information that your young children receive about alcohol, but as their single greatest influence, you have the ability to prepare them to deal with peer pressure and media messages. The following are some suggestions on ways to counteract pro alcohol messages:

  • Monitor who your children spend time with and what they will be doing.

  • Get to know your children’s friends and their families.

  • Determine a time for your children to be home and be clear about what places and people they are to avoid.

  • Make sure parties have adult supervision and that alcohol and other drugs will not be available.

  • Be selective about television shows, movies and concerts that glamorize alcohol and other drug use.

Practice refusal skills

Whether to use alcohol and other drugs is a decision that your children are being forced to make at an early age. That’s why it’s so important to teach young children decision making skills as early as possible.

Practice with your children so that they will already have an idea about what to say when someone confronts them about alcohol and other drugs. Don’t just expect them to say exactly what you tell them to say, but role play with your children so that they feel more comfortable when the situation comes up. Let them know that you understand that saying “no” is hard to do, but that you do expect them to make the right decision and refuse. Show concern and be patient with them as they practice their appropriate responses. If they practice ahead of time, they are more likely to succeed in difficult situations such as these:

  • One of your friends offers you some beer. What can you say? What would you say if they called you a chicken or a baby?

  • Some older kids ask you to a party where they say there will be lots of beer to drink. What can you say to them?

  • A friend's brother offers you a ride in his car, but he is acting high or drunk. What can you do/say?

Make your expectations clear

It’s important to tell children what you expect of them and what the consequences will be if they don’t meet your expectations. Make sure that they understand, and that you are serious. Let them know what will happen if they don’t honor your expectations. Choose consequences that are immediate, realistic and important to your children. If your consequences are too severe, you may find it hard to follow through. It is more important to be consistent than harsh.

Set a good example
Children learn by watching what you do. Setting a good example is the best way to assure that your children will make healthy choices about alcohol and other drugs.

  • If you drink, let them see that drinking doesn’t mean getting drunk. Let them hear you use some refusal skills, such as,“No thanks, I’m driving.”

  • If you don’t drink, let them know your reasons for making this choice.
  • Be a responsible host by having non-alcoholic drinks available, and never persuade a guest to have a drink.
  • Show that you are able to handle stress without using alcohol. Don’t make comments like, “I need a drink to relax.”
  • Keep your alcohol away from children. Never ask your children to serve drinks or to get you a beer from the refrigerator.

It’s not luck that keeps children alcohol and drug-free. It takes effort, caring, and thought.

Information about alcohol and alcoholism