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Underage Drinking and Your Child

Eyes rolling, headphones blaring and doors slamming are signs that a teen is not interested in talking to mom and dad at the moment. In a time when distractions are plentiful, grabbing your kids’ attention can be a challenge. But, getting your kids to stop and pay attention is necessary to have the hard conversations; especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol.


Studies show that, on a daily average, 5,000 to 8,000 12- to 17-year-olds drink alcohol for the first time. Numbers like that should warn you, but they certainly don’t have to scare you, and neither does “the talk.” It may not be the easiest topic to discuss, and your teen may not appear to be interested or concerned at all, but don’t be discouraged. Talk. They hear you.


What do you say to your teen to teach about dangers posed by underage drinking? Below are a few tips from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in conjunction with its campaign Talk. They Hear You. These tips can help you start the talk and guide the conversation to the right direction.


1. Be clear about your position.

The goal of the conversation is to steer your child away from underage drinking. From the very beginning, be open with your teens and state firmly that you don’t want them to drink. Help them understand that this isn’t a punishment, but a precaution to keep them safe.


2. Show them that you care.

Body language from your teen like rolling eyes or disengaged posture can be hard to empathize with, but the topic of underage drinking is an excellent way to show your children that you truly care about what they do and what happens to them. Show them that you care by having the talk, keeping their eye contact, and by approaching the discussion in an open, non-confrontational manner.


3. Know the facts.

Being well informed about underage drinking and alcohol is an imperative first step for feeling comfortable talking about it with your teen. Having the statistics and information ready to go can help logically explain to your child why underage drinking and drug use is a problem and should be avoided. Instead of your teens viewing a no-drinking policy as a punishment or as stifling to their individual freedoms, hearing the facts from a well-educated parent will aid in the understanding of making wise choices.


4. A two-way street: pay attention to them.

If you want your teens to pay attention to you, reciprocation is the best course of action. Knowing who your teen’s friends are, where they like to go and what they like to do together can establish a rapport that will ease the intensity of the conversation about drugs and alcohol. Instead of seeming distant and irrelevant, being on the same page as your kid instills trust and opens up the flow of communication down the road.

Every child and family is different, but every child and family deserves to have the talk about drugs and alcohol that could save a life. It’s difficult, and they may not show an obvious interest. That’s OK. Talk. they hear you.

For more information and tips for talking to teens about drugs and alcohol, please visit us online at or check out the guide created by SAMHSA at

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