Serious conversations are never easy. There’s this impending sensation of doom that stifles the air when someone says, “We need to talk.” It doesn’t matter if the talk is delivering the best or worst of news; those four little words make your stomach drop, heart race, and alarm bells blare in your brain. So if you’re looking to have the talk with your teen about underage drinking, how can you do it?
Tip #1: Understand the Why
Why do teenagers drink alcohol? Before you bridge the conversation of underage drinking with your teen, take the time to understand the why behind it.
According to the Mayo Clinic, teens are especially susceptible to alcohol use. The snowball effect of changes brought on by puberty makes them more apt to take risks and participate in the activities other youth their age do to fit in. In addition, today’s teens cope with greater levels of stress versus any previous generation; alcohol can easily become a coping mechanism.
Another factor in the why behind underage alcohol consumption are risk factors. If any of the following factors are at play, your teen is at a greater risk of drinking:
- A family history of alcohol issues
- Childhood abuse or major trauma
- Friends who drink alcohol, including older friends who are of age
- Problems with behavior, school, or work
- Mental health issues
Tip #2: Be Honest
You were their age once. Did you experiment with alcohol? Be honest about your past. As a parent, it’s normal to want to hide your mistakes, but sharing them with your teen can actually help them avoid making the same errors. Just because you drank alcohol in high school doesn’t mean your teen will if you share what happened, what you learned, and why you would do things differently if you had a do-over.
Tip #3: Discuss Peer Pressure
Talk to you teen about the need to fit in. Talk about what peer pressure is and how to combat it. You can help your teen prepare for saying no and holding their ground. You can even create an escape plan so that if your teen gets into a sticky situation, they know what to do and how to contact you.
Tip #4: Be Clear About the Consequences
What happens when someone drinks under the age of 21? Be clear about the consequences of underage drinking. For example, you might discuss how underage drinking can be the cause of alcoholism, violent crimes, alcohol-related deaths, unwanted or dangerous sexual activity, and problems with school that can affect future opportunities.
Tip #5: Start Now
Do you know what the easiest thing about uncomfortable talks is? Pushing them off. It’s so easy to say you’ll do it tomorrow or next week, but why put off until tomorrow what you can do today? The sooner you start the talk, the better. And if you’re still feeling a little worried, then click over to our five steps to talking about alcohol.