TALKING WITH YOUR HIGH SCHOOLER ABOUT ALCOHOL Mothers Against Drunk Driving
∙ DEALING WITH PEER PRESSURE Helping Your Teen Make Good Choices ∙ FINDING ALTERNATIVES TO DRINKING
∙ A MESSAGE TO PARENTS
Your Teen’s World
∙ FINDING HIS OR HER OWN WAY ∙ GOING ALONG WITH A GROUP
4 5 6
∙ CHOOSING FRIENDS 34 ∙ STEERING CLEAR OF DRIVING DANGERS 36 ∙ COULD YOUR TEEN HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM? 39
∙ SHORT TERM THINKING
What Style of Parent Are You?
7 8 9
Talking About Marijuana and Combining Alcohol and Marijuana 40
∙ PERMISSIVE RULE SETTING
∙ HOW MARIJUANA WORKS IN THE BODY
40 43 44 45
∙ HOW YOU CAN HELP YOUR TEEN
∙ PARENTAL CONCERNS
∙ STARTING THE CONVERSATION ∙ WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK? Talking About Alcohol
∙ FINAL THOUGHTS
7 8 9 10
∙ KNOWING THE FACTS AS YOU COMMUNICATE YOUR FAMILY’S VALUES
Promoting a Safer Community
∙ ENFORCING CONSEQUENCES 19 ∙ DID YOU DRINK WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG? 22 ∙ TALKING SO YOUR TEEN WILL LISTEN 23 ∙ AVOIDING POTHOLES 25 ∙ STRATEGIES THAT HELP A TEEN SUCCEED 27 ∙ 5 REASONS THAT TEENS RESPECT 28
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Mothers Against Drunk Driving® is grateful to Robert Turrisi, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Pennsylvania State University for their partnership in this handbook. Dr. Turrisi has spent years researching how parents can talk effectively with teens about alcohol. This handbook draws from his work and from scientific knowledge in this field from all over the world.
A MESSAGE TO PARENTS FROM DR. TURRISI AND MADD Being a parent is intensely rewarding, but also deeply challenging. Despite a common misconception that as children enter high school their friends become all- important and parental influence weakens, research shows that parents are still the most important source of information for older adolescents. Further, our research shows that parents: 1. ARE motivated to talk with their children and teens 2. ARE willing to learn new ways to reach out to their teens 3. DO make a difference when it comes to reducing risky adolescent behavior! Too many teens die or suffer life-altering consequences from drinking underage. In addition, young people under 21 are over-represented in both alcohol-impaired driving and passenger fatalities. Last, studies show that 1 in 3 teens combine alcohol use with other drugs (e.g., marijuana, nicotine and other stimulants) and experience 2 to 3 times more consequences on those occasions! All of these harms and tragedies are 100% preventable.
parenting and communication style. You can even change your child’s future. All of the best information from decades of studies done in the United States and Europe points to the same thing, with no exceptions – children and teens are safer when there are family rules present:
No alcohol use before age 21 No drug use No alcohol or drug impaired driving Never ride with someone who has been drinking or using other drugs
HOW TO USE THIS HANDBOOK We created this handbook based on the best information available to help parents talk to teens about alcohol and marijuana, keep them from driving impaired, and keep them from getting in a car with an impaired driver. This handbook will improve how you and your teen relate to each other and can help you protect your teen. Since each family is different, you will likely relate to some sections of this handbook better than others. That’s ok. Not all families are the same and we respect those differences. After reviewing the entire handbook, use the parts that are helpful to you and your family. We urge you not to underestimate how dangerous alcohol and marijuana, impaired driving, and riding with impaired drivers are for teens. By following the handbook’s suggestions, you can help equip your teen to make smarter, safer choices.
This is where you come in as a parent to make things change.
Fortunately, as a parent—you are a “changer”—you DO have the POWER to change the way your child thinks about alcohol and other drugs. You can change your
Your Teen’s World As young people grow into teens, they face many changes: Their bodies mature and develop. They face new pressures at school and socially. They encounter new moral dilemmas about risky behaviors, alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs.
and their brains develop, they can become more thoughtful. Instead of telling them what to do or what is right or wrong, you might ask “ How would you handle an invitation to a party where there will be older kids?” “ What things could you say?” “ Why do you think drinking alcohol, using marijuana, or taking other drugs, or impaired driving, or getting into a car with a friend that has been drinking is dangerous?”
The changes teens go through affect how they think about alcohol, marijuana and other drugs, driving, and getting into cars with friends who drive impaired.
To communicate effectively with your teen about alcohol, marijuana, and other risks, it helps to understand how these changes affect his or her world.
FINDING HIS OR HER OWN WAY Teens often feel that the world revolves around them. They get self-conscious and are easily hurt by critical comments. A teen assumes, “no one has ever felt the way I feel.” Because a teen feels unique, if a parent says “I know how you feel,” the teen may reject this as impossible. This is why most teens make decisions based on emotions and how they feel at the moment. This is a normal part of brain development. As teens get older,
Studies have consistently shown that helping others reach their own conclusions about the pros and cons of different alternatives are more effective than telling them what is right and wrong. Your children are no different in that way. GOING ALONG WITH A GROUP Teens include others in their problem solving. If their peers do something, it makes the behavior seem more okay. Teens are less likely to rely on their own standards and values, and may justify decisions by saying, “but everyone is doing it.” Teens often believe they should be excused for misbehavior if they had not planned to do something wrong. They may say, “We did not mean to drink; things just happened.” Again, you can help them with their thinking and planning by asking them questions starting with how , what , and why . “How would you handle a situation where other kids, including some of your friends, drank alcohol or used marijuana at a party or friend’s house?” “What things could you do?” Instead of forcing advice on an unreceptive teen, explain that you respect his or her decisions but as a parent you care and would like to discuss the situation. their thinking and planning skills.
As a parent, your role is to help them develop and learn how to use information to think and make plans. Use questions that start with how, what, and why to help develop their thinking and planning skills. TIP
Where Peers Fit In One reason why your teen is strongly influenced by friends is that peers have a similar level of power in the world. This “level playing field” allows teens to work out problems together, instead of just giving in to a more powerful individual, like a parent or a teacher. SHORT-TERM THINKING The teen brain focuses on what’s happening right now. When a teen thinks ahead, it usually means he or she is wondering about what to do this weekend, not next year. That’s why your son or daughter isn’t terribly concerned about the future. This puts teens at a disadvantage when they face choices about risky behaviors that can have long-term consequences, such as drinking. Using the how, what and why approach can help build thinking and planning skills that will help them see further into the future. When It Comes to Alcohol and Marijuana Teens may know the potential risks of drinking or using marijuana, but think, “My friends drink and use marijuana and nothing bad has ever happened.” That friend’s experience can have more impact than facts. Do not assume that giving information or statistics is enough to convince your teen not to drink alcohol. Teens believe, “Nothing bad will happen to me.” They assume negative things happen to others, not to them.
Risky Business Because teens are still developing, they take more risks with alcohol. They act impulsively and don’t recognize that their actions, such as drinking, have consequences. Alcohol and marijuana are especially attractive to teens because they reduce their social anxiety more than they do for adults.
Share the Facts! Kids who drink alcohol or use marijuana before age 21 are more likely to: Face problems in school Abuse alcohol or other drugs later in life
Get assaulted Drown or fall Die in a car crash
What Style of Parent Are You?
Parents rely on certain strategies for raising their children. Do any of the parenting styles below seem familiar to you?
AUTHORITARIAN Authoritarian parents tend to use parental power to control their children. Teens must do what they are told or else face serious consequences. Parents are unconcerned if teens understand the reasons behind rules. Parents don’t tolerate teens asking for explanations. Parents use threats and punishment to keep teens in line.
Research shows that teens who feel threatened by their parents may behave well when the threatening parent is nearby, but act out when the threatening parent is gone. These teens have difficulty behaving properly without external control. Children of authoritarian parents are less likely to develop internalized values that equip them to make wise decisions. Two parents, two styles? Sometimes parents have different styles. For example, a father might be authoritarian while the mother is overprotective. This can create even more confusion for the child as he or she attempts to meet the expectations of both parents.
By focusing on obedience, authoritarian parents lose their ability to influence their teen through reasoned discussion or to help them develop good thinking skills. If parents impose very strict rules, teens often defy them. Then parents punish the teens and the teens in turn become more rebellious. It can become a vicious cycle. Angry teens may finally say: “I don’t care how you punish me. You can’t control me. Take away whatever you want. Lock me up. Kick me out. It doesn’t matter because I will still do what I want.” At this point, authoritarian parents lose their influence.
Seeking Positive Balance We have explained parenting styles here to let you know about the potential consequences of being an authoritarian, overprotective, or permissive parent. We do not mean for you to question every parenting action: “Am I being too permissive? Am I being authoritarian?” Too much questioning can paralyze you as a parent. Instead, be careful to avoid extremes and seek a positive balance. For example, instead of helping children understand difficult homework assignments, overprotective parents actually do the work for them. This leaves a child poorly prepared to deal with the realities of adult life. Overprotected children lack experience and may panic in stressful situations.
Research shows: Compared with all teens who drink illegally, teens of authoritarian style parents tend to consume the most dangerously high levels of alcohol.
OVERPROTECTIVE Overprotective parents shield their children from the harsh realities of life. Like authoritarian parents, they exert a lot of control over their children, but their method is different. Instead of using rules and threats, overprotective parents present themselves as allies. They see the world as a threat and express this fearfulness to their children. Then they rescue their children from dealing with any harsh reality.
PERMISSIVE RULE SETTING Permissive rule setting parents take a hands-off approach. They: Do not set expectations. Instead, they feel teens should be independent. Permit their teen to explore the world without “interfering.” Feel kids should be free to make mistakes and learn from them accordingly. Permissive rule setting parents may not face as much rebellion as authoritarian or overprotective parents do. But permissive rule setting parents deprive their children of wise guidance in developing effective problem-solving skills. In most instances permissive rule setting parents do so to help their teens. They think that by setting permissive rules their teens will be more honest with them and will tell the truth about their alcohol or marijuana use. Studies show that teens rarely tell their parents exactly how often and how much they use alcohol. Teens often will grossly under-report risky behaviors to their parents (including alcohol and marijuana use). Research shows: Teens of permissive style parents tend to drink more often and heavier, use marijuana and other drugs, ride with others who are impaired, drive while impaired themselves, experience more problems in school and with the law, and are also more likely to be victims of crime. They also report having parents who are less willing to talk with them and have poorer relationships with their parents as well.
Parents Do Make a Difference. Despite how you may feel sometimes, research shows that parents are an important influence on whether or not teens choose to drink alcohol or use marijuana and other drugs.
POSITIVE Positive parents focus on empowering their children to grow and learn. They: Take an active role in teaching their teen responsibility. Tend to use the how, what, and why question approach. Set clear expectations about teen behavior, such as waiting until age 21 before drinking alcohol, no marijuana use, no impaired driving, and no getting into cars with others who have been drinking or using other drugs. Set and enforce rules prohibiting drugs. Explain reasons behind their expectations and encourage teens to talk about any concerns. Set and enforce consequences when agreements are not met. Use their power to create change. Positive parents know that their own age, knowledge, experience, and material resources give them more power than their children. Positive parents use that power to strengthen and protect their teens and help them grow into effective individuals. Positive parenting is generally the most effective parenting style.
Positive parenting can be difficult, because parents gradually relinquish control and give kids more freedom and responsibility with each passing year. These parents respect a teen’s drive for independence, yet maintain legitimate limits. Their philosophy is to build trust and teach skills that empower the teen to take increasing control of his or her life. Instead of threatening severe punishment for bad behavior, positive parents discuss, set, and enforce clear consequences for breaking rules. They encourage teens to talk about problems and build problem-solving skills by using the how , what , and why approach. Boost Self-Esteem Teens who have high self-esteem are better equipped to make smart choices, deal with peer pressure, and avoid underage drinking. Praising achievements Helping set realistic goals Giving choices Offering responsibilities Focusing on teen’s strengths without comparing to others Taking all of your teen’s concerns seriously Boost your teen’s self-esteem by:
Last, it is wise to understand parenting styles, but too much time spent worrying about your parenting style can paralyze you as a parent. Instead, try to avoid the extremes and find a more positive approach to parenting. This is an important step you can take to prevent underage drinking or other drug use, impaired driving, and your teen getting into a car with a driver who is impaired.
Research shows: Teens of positive style parents tend to not drink or drink far less often and in smaller amounts. They do not use marijuana, they do not ride with others who are impaired, and they do not drive while impaired themselves. They are also far less likely to experience more problems in school and with the law, and are far less likely to be victims of crime. In contrast to other parenting styles, their teens report that their parents are more willing to talk with them and also report having better relationships with their parents.
Parents do make a difference
The Bottom Line Positive parenting strategies can help your child’s brain development, thinking, and planning.
Despite how you may feel sometimes, research shows that parents are an important influence on whether or not teens choose to drink alcohol or use marijuana or other drugs, get into a car with someone who has been drinking or using other drugs, or drive when impaired.
For more information on how parenting styles can influence teen drinking, visit MADD at madd.org / powerofparents
Teens do care about their parents' opinions. They especially respond well to a positive parenting style.
Research has consistently shown that teens do care about their parents' opinions when their parents adopt a positive style. These same studies also show that it is never too late to adopt a new approach to parenting . Even when parents have been overprotective, authoritarian, or permissive in the past, children respond extremely well to parents who are willing to change. In contrast, many studies show that authoritarian, overprotective, and permissive parenting can lead to negative outcomes.
The first step in talking with your teen about alcohol, impaired driving, and riding with friends who drive impaired, is simply getting started. Often, the conversation takes more than one sitting and evolves over time. As a parent, you must take active steps to start this conversation. Suggest to your teen that you would like to talk. Don’t expect the teen to agree. In fact, many teens respond negatively. Here are some ways to begin: “I know you are smart and know a lot of things. Perhaps you could help me with something that has been on my mind. I keep hearing about how much drinking is going on, and I am a little worried. Maybe if we talked about it I might feel better. Do you mind giving me a few minutes?” “You probably have already heard a lot in school about drinking alcohol. I would like to talk with you a little about it. I know things are different from when I was young and I would not be a good parent if I chose not to talk with you about something so important. Do you mind giving me a few minutes?” Teens are often tired after a school day or athletic event, and that may not be the best time to start a conversation. Think about your teen’s schedule and how you can create a time where you will have his or her undivided attention. Perhaps take him or her out to a quiet dinner or someplace where you can comfortably start a “one-on-one” conversation. Talking About Alcohol
TIP: Here are several topics that we recommend you discuss with your child
"How" do you think drinking helps or hurts the body?
"What" physical activities do you want to do in the future that drinking could hurt? "What" problems can happen when young people choose to drink?
"Why" do you think some young people drink if they can get hurt?
The effect of drinking on the body / physically
"How" do you think drinking affects choices young people make?
"Why" do you think some young people drink if it can have a negative impact on their choices?
How drinking affects decisions and choices
"How" does drinking before the age of 21 affect someone?
"What" answers could kids give if they’re pushed to drink before 21?
"Why" do you think some people would start drinking before 21?
Drinking before age 21
Remember: Try to keep your cool and not get angry if you hear things that you don’t like.
STARTING THE CONVERSATION Communication is most effective when all participants have a feeling of connection and collaboration. The best way to achieve this is by asking for permission. For example, you might say, “There is something that I have been hearing about lately in the news and I was hoping we could talk about it for a few minutes. Is that okay?” When the time is right to start talking together, use “ how ,” “ what ,” and “ why ” questions to help your son or daughter work through different scenarios that could involve alcohol. Here are some strong ways to start a dialogue around alcohol: I know that some high school students have tried alcohol. I was wondering… If you were to guess, how many kids your age do you think have had a drink with alcohol in it or been a passenger in a car where the driver was drinking? How do you think it has helped them? Hurt them? What are the reasons those kids might have had for drinking? What are some of the things they could have done instead? Why do you think they did that? Why do you think they didn’t drink?
These are different than yes-or-no questions like “do you know anyone who drinks?” Questions that start with “ how ,” “ what ,” and “ why ” can encourage an exchange of ideas. They help teens practice rational thinking about pros and cons of different alternatives. Open-ended questions allow kids to develop thinking skills that help them resist in-the-moment emotions. You can also personalize the questions: “If you were in their situation how might you act? How do you think it would affect you? What are some of the things you could have done instead? Why is that?” Negative reactions from a parent can shut down communication and make it difficult to help a child solve problems and deal with difficult situations. Negative parental reactions include: Letting off steam in an angry outburst. Giving the silent treatment and then saying “things are fine.” Bringing up the child’s past failures. Recruiting other people to support your side of the argument. Comparing kids and asking “why can’t you be more like your brother/sister?”
WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK?
Parents sometimes hesitate to impose rules against underage drinking or even to discuss drinking with their teens. Maybe they are embarrassed or assume their son or daughter is not at risk.
Are You Making That Assumption?
Read the Real Facts:
According to data from a Monitoring the Future na- tional survey, about 75% of teens try alcohol outside the home before graduating from high school.
My son or daughter is not interested in drinking.
About 33% of high school seniors have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days.
My teen’s friends are good kids who do not drink alcohol.
Although most teens do learn about alcohol in their health classes, research shows that many important issues never get covered. School programs alone are not enough to stop teens from drinking. Unfortunately, the reality is that many teens at this point in their lives are still uninformed about how powerful a drug alcohol can be.
My son or daughter has learned about the negative effects of alcohol in school.
At this point, my son or daughter should know better.
Leading national surveys reveal that parents are the number one source that teens turn to for important information. Parents can influence their teen’s decision not to drink alcohol.
My son or daughter won’t listen to me at this point.
Teens Make Assumptions, Too Teens who binge drink say:
Consider these quotes from teens:
“A girl I know got so drunk that a friend and I had to carry her for several blocks, trying to keep her from burning us with a cigarette. Since then, she has gotten as drunk every weekend. It has gotten her into some bad situations.” “I was having a great night. I drank at least 15 beers. Then I blacked out. This is not unusual for me. Another time, I became violent, smashed bottles and got in tons of trouble.” These accounts sound shocking, but your son, daughter, or someone they know has likely experienced something like this.
They don’t believe drinking makes you sick or has bad effects. They are bored and there is nothing else to do but drink. They expect drinking to have benefits, such as improved socializing. “It can’t be that bad if everyone is doing it,” and “my friends won’t think I’m cool if I don’t drink.” Talk with your teen to correct his or her mistaken assumptions about alcohol. For example, six out of seven teens actually do NOT binge drink; educate your teen that not everyone is drinking though it may seem
at times as though they are. Teens Drink Differently
Teens often engage in intense drinking, called “binge” drinking. For males, bingeing means having at least five drinks at one time. For females, bingeing means at least four drinks at a time. Unfortunately, nearly 22% of high school teens have engaged in binge drinking. Colleges report rates as high as 60%. Sometimes, teens plan to binge (saying, for example, “Let’s get hammered!”). Other times, they get caught up with drinking games or parties that get out of hand. Teens who chug alcohol and drink as much as they can—as fast as they can—risk dying from alcohol poisoning.
In the past month: 1 out of 10 students in the 10th grade got drunk. 1 out of 5 students in the 12th grade got drunk. Binge Drinking is Bad News Binge drinkers are more likely to be: Pushed, hit, or attacked Confronted with unwanted sexual advances Sexually assaulted Seriously injured
Talk Soon “Casey was a senior, on the wrestling team, played football and sang in the choir. He and his friends bought some liquor from a store known for not checking IDs. They thought it would be fun to see how much one person could chug – that person was Casey. The next day, he was dead from alcohol poisoning. I had the false sense of security that he had the maturity of someone who could handle his liquor, but I was wrong. If I had it all to do over again? I would have made my message very clear. When I found that bottle of rum Casey had hidden in my garage, I would not have thrown it away and said nothing like I did. I would have taken it out and set it on my kitchen counter. Then we would have discussed why I did not want him drinking, sitting there and looking at each other. I would have spoken to him about alcohol more often.” Story of a mother whose son died from alcohol poisoning at the age of 18.
Binge drinkers are also more likely to drive drunk, ride with a drunk driver, have their property damaged, have unprotected sex, and get exposed to sexually transmitted diseases.
KNOWING THE FACTS AS YOU COMMUNICATE YOUR FAMILY’S VALUES Families take different approaches to alcohol use. Some parents permit their teen to drink a controlled amount of alcohol under supervision on holidays or at family functions. Other parents don’t permit any alcohol at all before a child reaches the age of 21. We have met parents who teach basic family values, like honesty and responsibility, but never discuss alcohol directly with their kids. They assume that their son or daughter will know how to apply family values to alcohol and other drugs. That’s a risky assumption. Teens’ brains are not fully developed and don’t make the same connections that are more obvious to adults.
You will empower your teen to meet the challenges of growing up if you explicitly discuss your expectations about alcohol, impaired driving, and riding with others who have been drinking. Keep communication lines open, and work together to set clear rules and consequences. We have met parents who teach basic family values, like honesty and responsibility, but never discuss alcohol directly with their kids.
The science is clear about young people and alcohol and other drugs: Early alcohol and other drug use puts the developing brain at risk and substantially increases the risk of problems, victimization, and addiction. Kids whose parents allow them to drink at home drink more often and heavily outside the home. There are no studies showing benefits of letting children or teens try alcohol. Actually, it is the opposite: for health and safety of a child and teen, the only real safe level of alcohol use under the age of 21 is no alcohol use. MADD urges you to make the following agreements with your teen:
No drinking alcohol before age 21 No socializing in places where teens are drinking No riding in a car with a driver who has had any amount of alcohol No other drugs
ENFORCING CONSEQUENCES As a parent, be ready to follow through and enforce consequences if your teen violates a family agreement. Permissive parents do not enforce consequences, but positive parents do, and the science about which style helps children and teens is clear and without exceptions. Discuss your position on alcohol and other drugs, impaired driving, and riding in a car with a driver that has been drinking or using other drugs: How you expect your teen will behave and why you take that position. Consequences you will enforce if the teen fails to live up to those expectations. Establishing consequences in advance appropriate to the violation. It’s best if your teen has no surprises if he or she breaks the agreement. Do Impose a consequence if your teen violates an agreement. Impose consequences consistently. Be very clear about no underage drinking. Don’t Base your actions on anger. Impose a consequence arbitrarily, in the heat of the moment.
Consider research from the United States and Europe: these studies show that teens who are given alcohol at home are more likely to drink alcohol when they are away from their parents. They also get drunk more often at early ages. It is very important to discuss all four highly risky behaviors. The Bottom Line Teens who believe their parents approve of them drinking alcohol are more likely to drink outside the home, drive impaired, and ride with other drivers who are impaired. Teens are young and still learning about behaving responsibly. You can help your teen find many other ways to practice responsible behavior besides drinking alcohol or using other drugs. As a parent, don’t feel the pressure to give in and let your teen drink before the age of 21. The science is clear that being permissive does not improve the relationship between a parent and a teen, but rather negatively affects it. Also keep in mind: there can be legal ramifications to serving alcohol to your own child or other people’s children. In some states, parents may serve their own children alcohol. Adults, however, are never permitted to serve alcohol to other people’s children. What’s more, it is illegal for young people under 21 to purchase or possess alcohol.
Here are examples: A teen comes home from a party and has clearly been drinking. The parent is angry and says, “You’re grounded indefinitely. When you’re not in school, you will be at home.” This consequence is set arbitrarily in the heat of the moment and may not even be possible to enforce. Another way the parent might respond would be to say, “I’m very disappointed with you. We had agreed that there would be no drinking until you are 21. We will talk about this in the morning.” The next day, the parent might say, “As you know, you violated a very important family rule. Drinking is very dangerous for you. Therefore, as we agreed before, there will be serious consequences. For the next month, you Does the Penalty Fit? It’s best for consequences to match the “crime.” Small violations of family rules deserve mild punishment; serious violations deserve tougher penalties. For example, you could consider curbing a teen’s privileges, like driving, curfew, phone rights, or computer access. Evaluate the situation, and as a parent, set an appropriate consequence.
will not be allowed to use the family car and your curfew will be 9:00 instead of 11:00. I hope that after the month has passed, we will both feel more confident in your ability to follow the rules of this family.” In this example, the consequences were previously established and are discussed after the parent’s initial disappointment in the teen has subsided.
Emphasize to teens how quickly drinking can lead to dangerous results. That’s why you take underage drinking so seriously.
High Quality Agreements A good agreement is clear and understood by all. However, parents and teens often make agreements only to have the teen break them. Instead of being a true agreement, the agreement really imposes what the parent wants. At times, you may have to ask for an agreement based on respect for your authority. In those cases, emphasize that your purpose is to protect and your intent is to eventually give freedom. Agreements are most likely to be honored when they are made in the context of high-quality relationships. High quality relationships are built on mutual trust, where both participants are confident that the other will be honest, responsible, and caring. High quality relationships are characterized by: Respect for one another. Empathy and understanding. Knowledge of each other. Mutual trust. Concern for one another.
Even if your teen says what you hope to hear (“I don’t drink”), it’s still important to talk together about alcohol. Ask questions, listen without defensiveness, and expand your teen’s thinking. Discuss how he or she might handle or avoid risky situations that could come up. Your teen may not admit to drinking yet, but you can still set no-alcohol rules. Talk together about alcohol to help prevent your teen from drinking underage.
DID YOU DRINK WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG?
Here is an example of how you might handle this question: “I did have a drink when I was younger. However, we did not know as much as we know now about the risks of alcohol. If I had known then, I would have done things differently. This is why I am talking to you about it. I want you to be safe, healthy, and happy.” Underage Drinkers Tend to Binge Drink Underage drinkers behave differently than most adult drinkers. Adults typically have a drink or two with a meal or at a party. Teens drink less frequently, but tend to consume larger quantities than adults.
Your son or daughter will probably ask if you ever drank as a teen. This creates a dilemma. If you drank and say “no,” you are being dishonest. If you say “yes,” your child will think you are hypocritical to expect different behavior from them. Honesty is important and you should not lie to your teen. Parents use different approaches to answer this question: Making the topic off limits. Some parents establish a “ground rule” at the start of their discussion: they will talk about everything else, but will not answer questions about their own use of drugs or alcohol as a teen. The parent explains that the parent’s behavior as a teen is not relevant to the teen’s current use of alcohol. This strategy works in some families, but not in others. Teens usually become convinced that their parents are hiding something and resent that their parents won’t talk about it. Admitting mistakes and emphasizing negative outcomes. Other parents admit they drank as teens, but focus on how it was a mistake. They use their own experience to discuss negative outcomes, such as how drinking led to an embarrassing moment or dangerous situation. They stress that because the parent behaved foolishly and was lucky enough to escape serious consequences does not mean that the teen will have the same outcome.
“I admire what you have done and how you are coping”). Everyone wants to be respected and is more willing to talk to people who respect them. Tell your son or daughter you are proud of them for being able to handle tough situations. Choose a good time. Choose the best time to bring up and discuss problems. Don’t do it when the other person is rushed or has a commitment elsewhere. Wait until you both can have a relaxed, calm discussion.
The Physical Effects of Alcohol Alcohol is a drug that depresses the entire body. From the first drink, alcohol begins to impair judgment, coordination, and reaction time. As higher levels of alcohol reach the brain, physical processes slow down, including breathing and heart rate. Too much alcohol makes breathing and heart rate drop to dangerously low levels—or even stop.
TALKING SO YOUR TEEN WILL LISTEN
The following strategies will help you communicate most effectively: Listen. Allow the teen to speak without interruption. Listen to what he or she says. Sometimes, it is good to paraphrase. “Let me see if I understand you. It sounds like you feel that…” With paraphrasing, you don’t agree or disagree, you interpret. Most teens say their parents are the leading influence on their decisions about drinking Speak with respect and appreciation. Your teen still values your approval. Whenever you can, express your respect and admiration (for example,
Agree to step away. Agree to temporarily stop talking if things don’t go well. Wait until both individuals can talk in a calm, direct fashion. Use appropriate body language. How you position yourself physically while you talk can send important messages about your attitudes or express something you are not trying to convey. Don’t look away or slouch down. Nod your head in agreement. Avoid debate. Sometimes a teen feels he or she must “defend” a position. Then the conversation turns into a mini-debate. If you find yourself debating, try suggesting that you both approach matters from a different angle. Also, avoid statements that begin with “you” (“You did this…”). They make the other person feel attacked. Get Behind 21 Numerous studies show the 21 drinking age law has reduced underage drinking and saved thousands of lives. Research in the U.S. and Europe has never shown any benefit to drinking at a younger age or that teens could be safely “taught” to drink. On the contrary, they show that attempting to teach teens to drink results in increased binge drinking.
You might take your child to lunch or out for some ice cream where you could both sit down to talk and listen to one another. Communicate directly. Pick a time to speak when you can have each other’s undivided attention. Don’t discuss important things when one of you is absorbed in another activity, such as reading the newspaper, watching television, or texting. Emphasize common goals. Remind teens that you are on their side. Emphasize common goals, and use the shared goals as a basis for your guidance and suggestions. (For example, remind your teen that you both want him or her to stay healthy and safe.) Avoid communication “stoppers.” These are single statements that shut down any response. They are often threatening, such as “I better
not catch you drinking or else.” Recognize conflict is natural.
We are not identical to one another. We all have different beliefs and values; therefore, disagreement is a natural thing. We can use conflict as an opportunity to grow and learn about each other.
Anger about not being trusted. Some teens interpret a request to talk as a sign that you do not trust them. Reassure your son or daughter that you are not suspicious and are doing this to help them, not attack them. Your CARING about the teen Wanting to UNDERSTAND the teen Wanting to HELP the teen RESPECTING the teen’s privacy and desire to be independent Emphasize these themes:
AVOIDING POTHOLES Sometimes teens react badly when parents try to discuss sensitive topics. Here are ways to address their concerns. (Adapt them to your teen’s personality as appropriate.) Fear of getting a lecture. Teens may be open to talking, but the last thing they want is a one-way lecture from parents about right and wrong. Studies show that teens drink more when they come from homes where parents are perceived to lecture too much. Teen: “I know what you will do if we talk. You’ll lecture me like you always do. Then if I argue you will interrupt me.” Parent: “You’re right. This time I won’t lecture. I will listen to what you think.”
Keep It Constructive! Do your best to keep communication channels open. Most of all, be constructive in your responses to your teen, not defensive or angry.
Teen: “What’s the matter, don’t you trust me?”
Teen: “I’ve heard it all before. We don’t need to talk.”
Parent: “I trust you. But this is a very important issue, and I think we need to pool the information we know to make sure you deal with everything effectively and that you know what to expect and what to do. To do that, we need to talk to each other.” Fear of punishment. Teens may fear you’ll treat them harshly right from the start. Teens who fear punishment communicate less often with their parents. Studies show these teens tend to initiate drinking, drink more often, and are more likely to experience alcohol-related consequences. Teen: “Sure, talk with you and you won’t let me go out. Forget it.” Parent: “I promise that I won’t be that way. I will listen to you. I’ll take what you say seriously. I’ll be straight with you and you be straight with me.” He/she thinks they already know it all. Some teens don’t want to talk because they believe they already know everything there is to know about a topic. Studies show that when teens feel they can trust their parents and are trusted by them, they are less likely to drink.
Parent: “You probably already know quite a bit. It would make me feel better if we talked it through. Besides, it would help me to better understand how things are different from when I was your age.” Studies show that when teens feel they can trust their parents and are trusted by them, they are less likely to drink.
Teens may think they know everything, but they often do not. Don’t let this objection stop you from trying to communicate.
Get Behind Zero Tolerance Laws Zero tolerance laws reinforce the minimum drinking age. They make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drive with a measurable amount of alcohol in their blood (a BAC of higher than .00 to .02, depending on the specific law). Zero tolerance laws can make teens automatically lose their license for underage drinking violations. Avoiding this penalty can motivate young people who value the privilege of driving. Encourage your public safety officials to actively enforce these laws in your community. Zero tolerance laws reduce traffic deaths of young people. Learn more online at: madd.org / powerofparents
Respect their concerns, even when maintaining limits. Respect teens’ urge for independence. However, it is still important to set clear rules against alcohol use and know where your teens are. Phase in freedoms and challenges. Gradually reduce parental control so teens have more freedom and responsibility with each passing year—yet maintain limits against underage drinking.
STRATEGIES THAT HELP A TEEN SUCCEED
Teens are less likely to drink alcohol when their parents: Empower choices. Encourage teens to make their own choices, even relatively minor ones, such as picking a place for the family dinner, choosing a movie to go see, and so on. Sometimes choices can be framed by the parent in ways that the teen is choosing between two desirable alternatives. Give calm guidance. Offer clear-headed discussion and guidance about choices teens face that are important to their life path.
5 REASONS THAT TEENS RESPECT When you speak with your son or daughter about avoiding alcohol, emphasize the following reasons that make many teens choose not to drink: Reason 1: Underage Drinking is Illegal Most teens know it is illegal to drink under the age of 21. Still, they may assume they won’t get caught or they are unfamiliar with Zero Tolerance laws, which prohibit driving after drinking any amount of alcohol. Remind your son or daughter that police do receive complaints about parties. When police arrive, they may arrest all who have been drinking underage. State clearly that you expect your teen to obey the law. Discuss the potential consequences for breaking the law, such as the teen could have his or her license revoked or face expensive legal fees. The teen, you, and your family could be publicly embarrassed, since these arrests are routinely reported in newspapers. If a court date is scheduled, you may have to take time off from work and could lose pay.
Teens rarely consider all the possible legal consequences. Discussing the implications of an arrest can help deter underage drinking. Reason 2: Drinking Can Make You Sick or Pass Out Alcohol irritates the lining of the digestive system. Drinking too much alcohol can make people vomit and feel bad for days (a condition known as a “hangover”). Other teens don’t want to be around someone who is sick or passes out from too much drinking. Remind your teen that alcohol sickness can happen suddenly and with little warning. Reason 3: Drinking Can Lead to Sexual Assault Teens who are drinking are more vulnerable to dangerous situations and often can’t escape or protect themselves from the threat of rape or assault. Research clearly shows that the younger a person starts drinking, the greater the chance they will develop alcohol problems later in life.
CAUTION: Terrifying your teen could backfire Be truthful with your teen about risks, but avoid overly harsh scare tactics. Too much scary information can make people “turn off” and not pay as much attention. Plus, if you paint a horrific picture of the consequences and your teen doesn’t see them happen immediately when someone they know drinks, they will assume you were wrong or exaggerating.
Reason 5: Drinking Might Lead to Being an Alcoholic Most teens have negative images of alcoholics, and most do not want to become alcoholics. Yet they believe they can control their drinking and will not become alcoholics. Research clearly shows, however, that the younger a person starts drinking, the greater the chance they will develop alcohol problems later in life. Adults who started drinking at age 15 or 16 are five times more likely to be diagnosed with alcohol dependence as adults who started drinking after age 21. Coffee Doesn’t Work! After you drink, the liver removes alcohol from your body and bloodstream. This process takes time and cannot be sped up. As a result, there is no proven way to make a person sober quicker. You can’t get sober faster by: Drinking coffee
Your teen probably trusts the people she or he is around, and you may trust them too, but alcohol can turn situations dangerous. Eighty-five percent of women who have been sexually assaulted were assaulted by someone they knew. Reason 4: Drinking Can Lead to Early Death Heavy drinking can damage the liver, kidneys, brain, and heart, all with serious long-term consequences. However, even one night of heavy drinking can have life- changing results, including unprotected sex (which may lead to pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease), death from alcohol poisoning or choking on vomit, or car crashes that are fatal.
The Bottom Line The best approach is to discuss negative consequences in a straightforward and honest manner.
Exercising Eating food Getting fresh air Taking a cold shower
Remind your teen: Never get in a car with a driver who is trying to sober up. Coffee and other methods just don’t work.
Helping Your Teen Make Good Choices
The biggest reason why teens drink is peer pressure. A friend might directly suggest your child participate, saying “Let’s get drunk,” or your teen might assume everyone else is doing it and that it’s an acceptable thing to do. You can’t completely protect your son or daughter from peer pressure, but by teaching your teen to make good choices and by supervising and monitoring his or her activities, you can help shield your teen from the most dangerous situations. DEALING WITH PEER PRESSURE Sometimes, teens face situations where they are pressured to do something they would rather not do. For example, a friend might push your teen to have a drink when your son or daughter doesn’t want to. Your teen might be told: Come on, everyone has tried it. If you won’t drink with us, then why are you hanging out with us? It’s part of growing up. We drank once before, so what’s the problem now? You’ll have an incredible time if you do. Come on, take a drink. It will get you in the mood. You’ve been working too hard. You deserve to party.
Teens need ways to resist this pressure and rely on their own values, beliefs, and attitudes. You can suggest they use simple “one-liners” that remove the pressure without making a big scene or issue about it. For example, your teen could respond simply: “It’s just not for me; it’s not what I want.” “I don’t drink.” “No thanks.”
Let your teen know that not everyone their age is drinking. Teens often overestimate how many of their peers are drinking or have tried alcohol.
Your teen might also consider: Offering an alternative, like “I’d rather have soda.” Making an excuse, like “I have a test to study for tomorrow.” Having an explanation, like “I really just don’t like the taste.” Changing the subject. Encourage your teen to think of short, yet effective, responses. If your teen decides on “one-liners” beforehand, he or she will be prepared for an uncomfortable situation that might arise.
Alternatives: Encourage your teen to find other ways to celebrate positively. Options might be: Shopping for something special (e.g., clothes, music, sporting goods). Having an outing, such as dinner, that would include a few special friends. Offering to have friends over for a party (without alcohol).
It’s a fact Anyone who has been drinking cannot accurately tell how drunk he or she is.
FINDING ALTERNATIVES TO DRINKING Some teens have “positive” reasons (from their perspective) for why they might choose to drink. Help teens think of other ways to achieve similar goals. Positive reason: Celebrate Some teens believe that drinking helps celebrate a special occasion.
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