Underage drinking: 5 conversation starters
“Hello, how was your day?”
“Anything interesting happen?”
Conversations with teens aren’t always easy. One- or two-word answers do not give you much to go on. Talking about underage drinking, drug use, sex—any controversial topic—makes it even more challenging. Yet the conversations are needed.
Here are 5 conversation starters that will open up a dialogue about underage drinking.
1. Use media to spark a conversation
Underage drinking is dangerous. Sadly, statistics show that underage drinking can lead to alcohol abuse later in life, is costly, and can lead to death. We hear it on the news. Use these moments to talk with your teen about their choices. Guide them on making responsible decisions: what they do, with whom they hang out, and where they go.
2. Set the ground rules
It is never too early to set the rules. Your kids should know what behaviors are acceptable and what consequences they will face. Have a plan to reach you if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. Decide on a secret code word they can tell you or text you. Have an open dialogue about underage drinking and remind them that you are their support system, not just the rule enforcer.
3. Share your personal stories
You may not believe this but personal experiences can be powerful. Your kids are always listening. Have you had a close call in past years when drinking? Have you experienced consequences from underage drinking? Share them. Do not glamourize or brag about your past behaviors. Help them recognize the immediate and long term costs of underage drinking: fines, the impact it will have on sports involvement and scholarships, the health risks, the list goes on.
4. Teach responsibility through action
Behaviors are learned through example. Your kids are watching your choices and actions. Your actions need to match your advice and rules around drinking. When going out, choose designated drivers and share your plan for safety. Legal adults must model responsibility. Use your choices and decisions as teaching moments. Talking about responsibility of drinking needs to be a lifelong conversation.
5. Let the little conversations speak volumes
Parents can learn a lot by listening to your teen’s interactions. Encourage questions. Be prepared with answers. Remove the emotional responses and give your teen a safe place to talk about underage drinking.
Talking about underage drinking is tough. It does not have to be a planned heavy conversation. Little conversations go a long way. Keep the topic open for discussion at any time. You will learn a lot too.