It’s Alcohol Awareness Month. How Can Parents Talk to Teens About Alcohol?

Posted by Maryvale on Apr 10, 2024 5:40:35 PM


Do you remember your first sip of alcohol? No matter how you relate to drinking, it plays a significant role in young peoples’ social identities. As part of Alcohol Awareness Month, we see this as a pivotal time to have open and honest conversations about alcohol, particularly with teenagers. For parents, discussing alcohol with their teens can feel daunting, but it’s a crucial step in promoting responsible decision-making and fostering a healthy relationship with alcohol. There are several effective strategies and tips for parents to initiate meaningful discussions with their teens about alcohol and set them up to have a healthy relationship with the substance throughout their lives. 


Don’t Be Afraid to Start Discussing Alcohol Early 

No parent wants to find themselves in a situation where they have waited too long, and their teen finds themselves in a dangerous situation. Conversations about alcohol should ideally begin before adolescence, laying a foundation of understanding and awareness. As children grow older, these conversations can evolve to address more complex topics related to alcohol, such as peer pressure, underage drinking, and responsible alcohol use.


Help Your Child Feel Safe and Seen

When discussing alcohol with teens, it’s essential to create a safe and non-judgmental space where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, questions, and concerns. Avoid using accusatory language or making assumptions, and instead, approach the conversation with empathy, understanding, and a willingness to listen.


Rather than expressing your feelings about alcohol, stick to the facts. Provide age-appropriate information about alcohol, including its effects on the body, potential risks, and consequences of underage drinking, legal implications, and strategies for staying safe in social situations where alcohol may be present. Use credible sources of information and encourage teens to ask questions and seek clarification.


Set Clear Expectations and Boundaries 

Be clear in communicating your expectations regarding alcohol use and set firm but reasonable boundaries. Discuss family rules regarding alcohol, such as the legal drinking age, limits on alcohol consumption, avoiding drinking and driving, and the importance of seeking help or support if they or someone they know is struggling with alcohol-related issues. 


Once you set expectations, be sure to be a good role model and play by your own rules. Parents and other adult caregivers play a significant role in shaping their teen’s attitudes and behaviors toward alcohol. Demonstrate responsible alcohol use and emphasize the importance of moderation, self-control, and upholding personal boundaries.


Encourage Critical Thinking

Work with your teen to help them develop critical thinking skills by discussing real-life scenarios related to alcohol use and asking open-ended questions that encourage them to consider the potential consequences of different choices. Encourage them to think critically about peer pressure, risk-taking behaviors, and ways to make informed and responsible decisions.


Peer pressure is one of the most common sources of underage alcohol use. Help your teen discuss and navigate the potential influence of social situations on alcohol-related decisions. Discuss strategies for handling peer pressure, such as assertively saying no, suggesting alternative activities, and surrounding themselves with supportive friends who know and respect their choices.


Emphasize Open Communication and Support 

Your teen may not always volunteer information about how and when they have experimented with alcohol. Cultivate a relationship that encourages teens to communicate openly with you about their experiences, concerns, and questions. The more they feel at ease in general, the less stigmatized or fearful they will feel when it comes to discussing hot-button issues like alcohol use. Let them know that they can come to you for guidance, support, and non-judgmental advice, and reassure them that seeking help or saying no to alcohol does not make them “uncool” or unpopular.


As Alcohol Awareness Month reminds us, conversations about alcohol are essential for guiding teens toward responsible decision-making, promoting safety, and supporting their overall well-being. At Maryvale, we work with children and teens of all backgrounds to cultivate life skills and lay the foundations for mental wellness. Through our Community-Based Services, we provide holistic mental health services to children and their families, and we offer dual-diagnosis treatment services for people with concurrent substance use and mental health disorders through Connections by Maryvale.

Topics: Alcohol Awarness Month