How to Talk About Underage Drinking

When was the last time you spoke to your teen about
drinking?  This may include your drinking, their drinking or just the
topic in general.  This may seem like a silly question, but in fact it is
an extremely important and often overlooked step in combating underage

In working with parents, I find that few have actually
spoken directly to their child about the topic. Those who have discussed
the topic admit to doing so on one or two occasions, but then never again. It seems to be a difficult subject to approach and yet it is so important
in influencing your teen’s behavior. The problem is that parents are not asking
the teen directly and aren’t engaging in regular discussions about the topic.
We need to change this and start discussing the topic more openly and more


First it is important for you to express your desire
directly. Tell your child you do not want them drinking and explain why.
 The goal is not to get into a power struggle but to set clear
expectations about their choices.  Just because you set a clear boundary
does not mean they will stick to it but it does improve the chances that they
will make good choices.


Also consider your own actions as you are asking them to
consider theirs.  If you tell them not to drink but then they witness you
repeatedly drinking excessively, then they are less likely to respect your
boundary.  This does not mean you can never drink, but rather that
encourages you to make appropriate choices as an example to your child.


Finally, continue to educate your child by openly and
frequently bringing up the subject. Do not lecture but rather invite
discussion by asking questions.  By asking questions you give them a
chance to share what they know and you get insight into their thoughts and
feelings about the subject.  Ask them what they know about alcohol. Ask
them when the last time was that someone offered them a drink.  Ask how
they handled the situation.  You can even practice with them so they get
comfortable turning down a drink.


You may even notice changes in how they discuss it with
you.  A change in their openness may indicate a change in their drinking
habits. These changes can alert you to potential problems or reassure you of
their obedience to your boundaries.   


Ideally you can continue these conversations with enough
regularity that your child knows what you expect of them and know that they can
approach you if, and when, they need to.  The goal is to create safety
around the subject.  You do not want your silence to imply consent so do
not be silent on the subject.  Get educated so that you can educate them
about underage drinking.

For more
information go to the SOBERINFO blog or