5 tips for talking to your child about alcohol
Get the tone right
The first step to getting the tone right is to make it a conversation rather than a lecture. Listen as much as you talk. This encourages young people to pay attention and open up too. It’s really important that you don’t come across as judgmental, critical or disapproving of what they say.
Get the timing right
Talking about important issues such as drinking alcohol needs to be done at the right time. Starting a discussion just as they’re going out the door to meet friends, before bed, or in the middle of an argument about other things can lead to conflict. You’re more likely to have a greater impact on your child’s decisions about drinking if you have a number of chats. Think of it as part of an on-going conversation.
Choose conversational triggers
If they haven’t brought up the subject you could find a ‘hook’; a recent film or TV storyline, a celebrity scandal involving drink, even stories about family or friends – simply ask “What do you think?” and follow on from what they say.
We don’t want to come across as hypocritical or get caught out saying one thing and having done another but if you're not honest they might not believe what you tell them. It’s far better to confess, for example, that “yes, I drank at your age – and I wish I hadn’t. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have.” And if their questions get uncomfortable, say so.
Young people like to push boundaries and test rules. That’s part of being a teenager. But the fact is that they feel safer if there are guidelines. Have clear rules and have sanctions for breaking them.
What if my child comes home drunk?
Take a deep breath. This is not the right time to discuss it. Tell them to go to bed (making sure they are safe and don’t show signs of alcohol poisoning) and say “We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”
Next day set aside a time and ask them to tell you what happened. Listen, and then tell them what you're feeling – upset, angry, worried, disappointed, whatever. Then go over all the issues you’ve discussed about the dangers, your rules and the punishments you’ve agreed.
The facts on underage drinking and the law