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Teaching Children Alcohol Awareness

A dad rests his hand on his son’s shoulder as they have a light-hearted talk.
Talking to your child about alcohol is not a one-time event.

Talk. They hear you.

That’s the message that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is trying to drive home through a public awareness campaign about underage drinking.

With that said, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about the conversation. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Don’t Lecture

Sure, you could sit your kids down when they’re 13 and have a long, serious discussion about drinking. But experts say that one big lecture is less effective than having many small conversations over the years, starting well before the age when temptations start popping up.

In fact, SAMHSA recommends age 9 as a good age to start these frequent small conversations. These can occur over breakfast, before bed or even in the car.

Show You Care and that You Know What You’re Talking About

It may seem obvious to adults, but children may not understand why alcohol is OK for adults, but bad for them. You’ll want to drive the following points home:

  • Alcohol is bad for the developing brain.
  • Underage drinking increases their chances of addiction later in life.
  • Underage drinking increases their chances of getting in dangerous situations.
  • Underage drinking is illegal.

The message is you disapprove of underage drinking because it’s not in your child’s best interest and you want what’s best for your child.

Show That You’re Paying Attention

Kids are more likely to drink if they think no one will notice. Show that you’re paying attention and will know if your child drinks. Signs to look for include mood changes, school problems, a rebellion against family rules, changes in friends, a “nothing matters” attitude, and finding or smelling alcohol on your child.

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