In honor and with the culmination of Alcohol Awareness month in April, Inspirations for Youth and Families decided to tackle the big question many parents torture themselves about – “What is a good age to talk to your child about alcohol abuse?” While the subject of alcohol abuse is overshadowed by drug abuse, many people are unaware that excessive alcohol use is responsible for 88,000 deaths in the United States each year (CDC).
If you go by Kidshealth the best age to talk to your kids about the dangerous effects of alcohol consumption would be somewhere between the ages of 8 – 11. Now that is not to say that there should be some level of non-verbal communication going on much, much earlier.
According to Kids Health online magazine, although three and four year old’s aren’t ready to learn the facts about alcohol or other drugs, they start to develop the decision-making and problem-solving skills they will need later on. You can help them further hone those skills by leading by example. This is especially true in the preschool years when kids tend to imitate adults’ actions as a way of learning. So, by being active, eating healthy, and drinking responsibly, parents indirectly teach their kids important lessons early on.
Why 8 – 11-years-old?
You may be thinking, “Why have a talk at such a young age. My child is not drinking at eight-years-old.” But keep in mind that children who talk about alcohol or drugs with their parents are less likely to try or abuse it. Research shows by the National Crime Prevention Council that the main reason that kids don’t use alcohol is that of their parents’ positive influence and they know it would disappoint them. That’s why it is so important that parents build a strong relationship with their kids and talk to them about substance abuse — the earlier the better!
It is also important to note that at this age range the importance of what your child’s peers think and do are beginning to make an impact on them. Friends and fitting in become one of the many priorities of your child and the influence of their friends becomes more valued. Speaking with your child allows them to be properly educated on the dangers and repercussions of alcohol. Most children between the ages of 8-11 lack the knowledge of the harmful effects of alcohol and rely on their peers to educate them.
How can I talk to my child about alcohol abuse?
There is no easy way to bring up alcohol abuse to your child, but here are some tips to help you have a smoother talk.
Do your research
Be prepared for lots of questions from your child when you have this conversation. Research alcohol abuse and the effect it will have on your child to properly inform and educate him or her. Don’t worry – you don’t have to be a walking encyclopedia of statistics. If you aren’t sure don’t be afraid to look for the answers with your child on the Internet. There are a ton of educational government websites. Just type in how to talk to your child about alcohol on Google and what you will have more than enough websites to choose from and researching alcohol together will also help the information stick as they have read and heard the information from a direct source.
Don’t use other people as examples
This step is hard because what better way for your child to understand than using an actual person they know as a reference. It seems logical, but your goal is to educate your teen so they will naturally make the right choice even while they are under pressure from friends to abuse alcohol. Using a person as reference detracts from your point. It also opens up an avenue for your child to react negatively or resentful. Besides educating your child you want to establish a line of open communication so they are not burdened to share or ask for help when they need it.
Emphasize the negative effects
Make sure your kids are aware of all the negative effects drinking alcohol can bring to their life. These reminders will serve as their reasoning when friends glamorize drinking alcohol. During times of intense peer pressure, your child will know that all the adverse side effects are not worth the temporary pleasure.
Have the talk often and regularly
You might think one stern talk with your child will be enough to discourage him or her from alcohol abuse but that is not the case. Think of it this way. If you only talk to your child about this once they will only remember it once. Any time after that they can be influenced to make the wrong decision. Now there is a point of diminishing returns. This doesn’t mean that you should constantly bombard your child with this conversation. Having a talk about drugs and alcohol a few times a year is a great way to refresh your child on alcohol’s harmful effects.