April is Alcohol Awareness Month, providing teachers and parents with yet another opportunity to talk to kids about alcohol. As much as adults may not like to think about it, many kids try alcohol long before it’s legal for them to drink it. Never underestimate the positive impact of proactive discussions with your kids. Below are some helpful tips.
Everyone is familiar with the effects of peer pressure. Arm your child with some tactics for dealing with offers of alcohol:
• Encourage them to ask questions. If a drink of any kind is offered, they should ask, “What is it?” and “Where did you get it?”
• Teach them to say “no, thanks” when the drink offered is an alcoholic one.
• Remind them to leave any uncomfortable situation. Make sure they have money for transportation or a phone number where you or another responsible adult can be reached.
• Teach kids never to accept a ride from someone who has been drinking. Some parents find that offering to pick up their kids from an uncomfortable situation — no questions asked — helps encourage kids to be honest and call when they need help.
Times of transition, such as the onset of puberty, can lead kids to alcohol use. Teach your kids that even when life is upsetting or stressful, drinking alcohol as an escape can make a bad situation much worse.
Kids who have problems with self-control or low self-esteem are also more likely to abuse alcohol. They may not believe that they can handle their problems and frustrations without using something to make them feel better. Help to strengthen your child’s self-esteem, including acknowledging positive behavior. Make sure your child knows they can always turn to you for support.
Be a Positive Role Model
Fortunately, parents can do much to protect their kids from using and abusing alcohol:
• Be a good role model. Consider how your use of alcohol or medications may influence your kids. Consider offering only nonalcoholic beverages at parties and other social events to show your kids that you don’t need to drink to have fun.
• Educate yourself about alcohol so you can be a better teacher. Read and collect information that you can share with your children.
• Try to be conscious of how you can help build your child’s self-esteem. For example, kids are more likely to feel good about themselves if you emphasize their strengths and positively reinforce healthy behaviors.
• Teach kids to manage stress in healthy ways, such as by seeking help from a trusted adult or engaging in a favorite activity.
Although experimentation with alcohol can be common among kids, it’s not safe or legal. It’s important to start discussing alcohol use and abuse with your kids at an early age – and keep talking about it as they grow up.