“I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Influence Central for Anheuser-Busch’s Family Talk About Drinking Program. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.”
My oldest daughter is 16 and it’s scary, and talking to teens about drinking isn’t enough. It needs to be a continued conversation and start way before they turn 16. According to research from the Gfk Roper Youth Report, parents have the greatest influence on their teen’s choices when it comes to drinking alcohol for 20 years.
My husband and I are fortunate to have an excellent relationship with our teen daughter. We have talked about drinking and drugs since she was little. Not necessarily because we knew it was the right thing to do, but because my three oldest children lost their mother to drugs. I stepped in when they were all very young and have done my best to be their mom, but I will never be able to fill those shoes completely. They have questions, and my husband and I agreed that we would be 100% honest with them from the start, so they knew what drugs and alcohol are capable of, and hopefully it will help them make better choices.
My husband has always been very open about alcohol with the kids because he lost his sister to a drunk driver. He was 14 years old; his sister was 13, and he saw everything happen with his own eyes. It’s been something that haunts him, and he’s been very open with the kids and they have seen the emotions that come over him when he does talk about his sister.
My sister is currently living with us and six months ago put herself in rehab because she almost died from alcohol, at age 29. Her liver was shutting down, my kids saw me worried out of my mind, upset and trying anything I could to get my sister help before we lost her too. Thankfully, my sister agreed to treatment, has been clean and sober since, and my kids have been right there to see it all.
The events that have happened in our life have been tragic, and I would do anything to take them back, but we can’t. I hate to say things like this, but it’s the truth – these tragic events have been the reason we started the conversation about alcohol with our children at such a young age. I can honestly say it’s had a tremendous impact on my kids, but even with all these things that have happened, I think parents could go about the conversations wrongly and push their kids in the opposite direction, especially once they start becoming teens. I’ve noticed we have had to grow with our kids, especially my oldest. Sort of back away a bit and learn to guide her as well as trust her. We can’t suddenly tell her what she should do or how to go about doing it, we need to be an influence in why she makes the choices she does. And this is why talking to teens about drinking can be tricky.
Sure our stories have an impact, but they can quickly lose their value in her life if we push her in the wrong direction. Thankfully, there are programs like Anheuser-Busch, who has shared the Family Talk About Drinking Program with parents for 20 years. They help by giving parents tips on how to have that open dialog about alcohol with their children of all ages. According to FamilyTalkAboutDrinking.com there are three main stages of parenting – 1) Teacher – ages 1 to 7, 2) Facilitator – ages 9 to 12, and 3) Coach – ages 12 to 21, which actually helps me understand why my oldest daughter has responded so well to our conversations. Sure the events have an enormous impact, but so does the way we as parents treat our kids.
As our children get older, we have to realize we play a different role in their lives. As they enter their teen years they have developed a strong sense of self, we have to respect their independence and stay involved by coaching them into making responsible choices.
- Start the conversation early –It’s sad, but kids are beginning to drink younger and younger, which is why we have to talk to kids about alcohol as soon as possible and continue the conversation.
- Plan the conversation, don’t just jump in – Try to plan your conversation rather than just jumping into things. You want to make sure you’re doing it at the right time, covering important points, and not being overbearing. You’ll want to have the conversation face to face and in a comfortable setting.
- Be an example for your teen – Do what you expect your children to do. Show your kids their parents are being responsible and not pulling the “do as I say not as I do.”
- Be honest with them – Don’t hide things or the fact that you occasionally drink. If you expect them to have an open and honest relationship with you be sure you give them the same.
- Stop being the boss and be the coach – We have to grow with our kids, preparing them for the real world means letting them make their decisions and rather than preaching or telling, we need to change gears and coach them in the right direction. Give them the information they can use and tools they need to make the right choices.
- Open-ended questions – Try asking open-ended questions, like: “What would you do if you were at a friend’s house and there was alcohol?”
- Listen – When your teen talks, listen to them, without interrupting and be open-minded.
- Show them respect – As parents we not only need to listen to what our teens are telling us, but respect it as well. They’re growing into their own person.
- Be calm – I admit this one can be difficult, but it’s extremely important to remain calm, even if you hear something that makes you upset.
- Have resources – We don’t have to know everything, but we do need to have resources. There are great websites like FamilyTalkAboutDrinking.com to get helpful resources.
- Take advantage of opportunities to talk – When things like graduation and prom come up, use them as a springboard to talk to kids about drinking, being responsible, and making the right choices.
- Talk about family and addiction issues – If you have a history of alcohol or substance abuse in your family, talk about it with your teens. Be honest, and inform them of people in their lives who have suffered because of drugs or alcohol. It can help them see things from a different light. Being honest with our children about the issues in our family has helped them see the dangers firsthand.
- Maintain a healthy relationship – Don’t forget how important one-on-one time is to teens too. You might not want to visit the petting zoo, but dedicating time to your teen shows them you care about them and letting them choose the activity shows them that you are interested in what they like. Maintaining a healthy relationship is important and can have a huge impact on the decisions they make.
- Establish clear boundaries – Make sure you have clear boundaries and consequences when it comes to underage drinking.
For more great tips and helpful information, you can turn to The Anheuser-Busch Family Talk About Drinking Program website. You’ll find great information from certified educators and parenting coach MJ Corcoran on talking to your kids about drinking.
Have you talked to your teen about drinking recently?