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?”
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