Help for Parents

Alcohol

Talking With your Children about Alcohol

Many people do not consider alcohol to be a drug. However, alcohol is classified as a depressant and is the #1 drug of choice for young people. The fact is that all mind-altering substances — including alcohol — are harmful for the developing brain. It is more important than ever for families to talk about alcohol early and often.

In Connecticut, it is illegal to provide and allow minors under the age of 21 to drink.

As different age groups require different information, here are some talking points for discussion with children of all ages. You are the biggest influence on whether your child will use alcohol or other drugs. Research shows that children are likely to model their parents’ behavior — both healthy and unhealthy.

Preschoolers

 Tell your child that they should only drink beverages that you or a known caregiver gives to them.

 Tell your child to never put anything in their mouth unless they know what it is.

 Tell your child that only adults can drink beer, wine and drinks with alcohol. Explain that these adult drinks can make a child sick.

 Secure harmful chemicals and alcohol to prevent accidental poisoning.

 Explain the importance of taking good care of our bodies — eating right, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep.

5-8 Year Olds

 Remind your child that they should only drink beverages that you or a known caregiver gives to them.

 Tell your child to never put anything in their mouth unless they know what it is.

 Let your child know that just because adults drink alcohol, it doesn’t mean that is safe for them to drink alcohol. Secure all alcohol to prevent accidental poisoning.

 Make sure your child knows that they shouldn’t stay in a place that makes them feel uncomfortable.

 Look for opportunities to talk to your child about the dangers of alcohol use. Use these teachable moments to share why alcohol is illegal for young people to use and the harm it causes a growing mind and body.

9-11 Year Olds

 Explain the harmful effects of alcohol on a developing mind and body. For example, alcohol is a powerful drug that slows down the body and mind. It impairs coordination, slows reaction time, and impairs vision, clear thinking, and judgment.

 Act out scenes with your child where people offer them alcohol. Let them know that they can always use you as the excuse, “No, my mom (dad, grandma, etc.) will kill me if I drink.”

 Set clear rules and expectations about alcohol, and how you will enforce the consequences if the rules are broken as drinking alcohol is harmful and unhealthy for them.

 Tell your child what makes them so special and why you want them to be healthy and safe.

12-14 Year Olds

 Make sure your teen knows your rules and expectations about alcohol, and that you will enforce the consequences if the rule is broken, as drinking alcohol is harmful and unhealthy for him/her.

 Ask your teen about their beliefs about alcohol and take the opportunity to dispel myths and share facts. For example, teens who drink are more likely to have problems with school work and school conduct.

 Get to know your teen’s friends and their families. Ask your teen about any new friends and find out what they like to do.

 Monitor where they go with friends. Express your concerns about friends that may not be the best influence.

 Discuss your teen’s daily ups and downs.

 Develop a plan so your child knows how to leave from a situation that is uncomfortable or dangerous.

15-17 Year Olds

 Don’t lecture. Reinforce facts about harmful consequences of drinking alcohol. Alcohol-related traffic crashes are a major cause of death among young people. Underage alcohol use is linked with teen deaths by drowning, suicide, and homicide.

 Discuss what alcohol can do to your teen’s future. A person who begins drinking as a teen is 4 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than someone who waits until 21.

 Remind your teen that underage alcohol use can change the structure and function of their brain, which continues to develop until their mid 20s.

 Use news reports, references in music, or portrayal of drinking in TV/movies as discussion openers.

 Compliment your teen on the things they do well and for the positive choices they make. Talk to your teen about the sources of stress in their lives, and healthy ways to manage stress. Talk to your teen about what they should do if they are concerned about a friend’s alcohol use.