TALKING WITH KIDS AND TEENS ABOUT ALCOHOL
POWER OF PARENTS® POCKET GUIDE: For Parents of Middle School and High School Students
8 | Young People Drink Differently 9 | Enforcing Consequences
3 | YOUR KID AND TEEN’S WORLD 3 | Talk Soon: Casey’s Story 4 | WHAT STYLE OF PARENT ARE YOU? 4 | Authoritarian, Overprotective, Permissive, or Positive 5 | TALKING ABOUT ALCOHOL 5 | Starting the Conversation 6 | Getting Your Son or Daughter to Talk 7 | Avoiding Assumptions 8 | Riding with an Impaired Driver
10 | Talking So Your Child Will Listen 11 | 5 Reasons That Children Respect 12 | HELPING KIDS MAKE GOOD CHOICES 12 | Dealing with Peer Pressure 13 | Choosing Friends 14 | Signs to Alert You to a Drinking Problem 16 | THANK YOU TO OUR PROGRAM PARTNERS
Because underage drinking poses special risks to young people and is illegal, this pocket guide urges parents to: • Use the strategies recommended to talk with your child about alcohol, even if she or he doesn’t seem interested in drinking. • Mark passages that mean the most to you and commit to regularly using what you learn here. • Practice and perform the exercises and see what beneficial changes come about. • Actively monitor your kid’s daily activities. • Set a family rule of no alcohol use before age 21. • Agree on consequences for breaking the no-use rule; enforce “zero-tolerance.” HOWTO USE THIS POCKET GUIDE
What’s Inside // Purpose of this Handbook
YOUR CHILD’S WORLD As children enter middle school and then high school, their maturing bodies grow at different rates, leading to social awkwardness, they may face the dilemma of who to become friends with and how to fit in, they encounter more responsibilities and demands at school and around the house, and they may also face new moral dilemmas about risky behaviors and substance use. Their brain focuses on what’s happening right now, basing decisions on immediate emotions rather than what consequences may happen in the future as a result of their actions. When it comes to alcohol, kids may know some risks, but their experience can have more impact than facts. They may think, “My friend or parents drink and nothing bad has ever happened.” Do not assume facts or statistics will convince your child to avoid alcohol. It is important to have clear family rules about what to do if they are in a situation where alcohol becomes present. TALK SOON “Casey, my oldest son, was what you’d call a ‘good kid’ – on the honor roll every semester, in the marching band, in the choir; he wrestled and played football. I never really worried too much throughout high school. 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. ” Comments from a mother whose son died from alcohol poisoning at the age of 18. Read the rest of Casey’s story at madd.org/powerofparents.
Your Child’s World
WHAT STYLE OF PARENT ARE YOU?
PARENTS DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE Despite how you may feel sometimes, research shows that parents are an important influence on whether or not their son or daughter chooses to drink alcohol. Kids do care about their parents’ opinions. They tend to respond well to a positive parenting style. In contrast, many studies show that authoritarian, overprotective, and permissive parenting can lead to negative outcomes. The strategies recommended in this pocket guide are compatible with the positive parenting style. To download MADD’s parent handbooks to learn more about parenting styles or to take our online parenting styles quiz, visit madd.org/ powerofparents .
PARENTING STYLE ATTRIBUTE
Compared with all young people who drink illegally, children of authoritarian style parents tend to consume the most dangerously high levels of alcohol. Teens of overprotective parents may not be as likely to drink illegally than teens of authoritarian or permissive, but are more likely to consume alcohol than teens of positive style parents. When they drink illegally, kids of permissive style parents tend to have significantly higher than average blood alcohol levels compared to other underage drinkers. When a child of positive style parents does drink illegally, they tend to consume significantly less alcohol than a child of other parenting styles.
Parent gives orders; “my way or the highway.”
Parent stays in control; parent rushes in & teens do not face consequences of actions.
Parent gives in; “kids will be kids.”
Use their authority to strengthen and protect (not control) the teen. Build trust and teach decision making skills.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Positive parenting strategies can help empower kids to avoid underage drinking.
What Style of Parent Are You?
The first step in talking about alcohol 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. Questions that start with “how,” “what,” and “why” can encourage an exchange of ideas. TALKING ABOUT ALCOHOL
What physical activities do you want to do in the future that drinking could hurt?
The effect of drinking on the body/ physically
Why do you think some young people drink if they can get hurt?
How do you think drinking helps or hurts your body?
Why do you think some young people drink if it can have a negative impact on their choices?
How drinking affects decisions/ choices
How do you think drinking affects choices young people make?
What problems can happen when young people choose to drink?
What answers could kids give if they’re pushed to drink be- fore 21?
Why do you think some people would start drinking before 21?
How does drinking before the age of 21 affect someone?
Drinking before 21
TIP: Even if your child says what you hope to hear (“I don’t drink”), it’s still important to talk together about alcohol.
Talking About Alcohol
GETTING YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER TO TALK Get into the habit of asking permission to ask the question. This sets the stage where you will work together to solve problems, instead of the conversation being one-way. For example, you might ask, “Is it okay if I ask you one or two questions?” Parents need to respect how a teen may feel and not force communication at a bad time. Let the matter drop and bring it up later. Try to pick a time when your child will be open to talking. Talk every day about things that matter to your son or daughter. Ask questions and seek understanding. This makes conversation flow more easily when it’s time to discuss “heavier” topics, such as alcohol. Seek discussion; don’t lecture! Share your own experiences and opinions and how they have changed over the years. As you are willing to open-up and share experiences, so will your son or daughter.
OVER THE PAST TWO WEEKS: • 11% of 8th graders have consumed alcohol to the point of being drunk IN THE PAST MONTH:
• 1 of 10 students in 10th grade got drunk • 1 of 5 students in 12th grade got drunk
THE BOTTOM LINE: Suspend your critical judgment while you listen attentively. This is probably the single most important aspect of good communication.
Talking About Alcohol // Getting Your Son or Daughter to Talk
AVOIDING ASSUMPTIONS Parents sometimes hesitate to impose rules against underage drinking or even to discuss drinking with their kids. Maybe they are embarrassed or assume their son or daughter is not at risk.
ARE YOU MAKING THIS ASSUMPTION?
THE REAL FACTS:
It’s too early. My son or daughter is not interested in drinking.
According to data from a Monitoring the Future national survey, about 26% of 8th graders have tried alcohol.
My child’s friends are good kids who do not drink alcohol.
About 10% of 8th graders have drunk alcohol in the past 30 days.
Although most kids 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 youth from drinking.
My son or daughter has learned about the negative effects of alcohol in school.
At this point, my son or daughter should know better.
Unfortunately, the reality is that many young people are uninformed about how powerful a drug alcohol can be.
Leading national surveys reveal that parents are the number one source that kids turn to for important information. Parents can influence their child’s decision not to drink alcohol.
My son or daughter won’t listen to me at this point.
Research shows that involvement in sports shifts from being protective when children are very young to a high risk factor as they get older. Do not assume that because your kids participate in sports or other organized activities that they will not be exposed to pressures to drink alcohol.
We have our kids involved in sports. This keeps them off the streets.
Talking About Alcohol // Avoiding Assumptions
RIDING WITH AN IMPAIRED DRIVER Our research shows, even kids that don’t plan or intend to ride with a driver who has been drinking may be “willing” in some circumstances, like if they feel responsible for helping a friend stay out of trouble or not get hurt. Some day your child may be faced with this, and it’s important to set a clear family rule. Discuss with your child the danger of riding with anyone who may have had too much to drink. Help them make a plan in case he or she experiences an unsafe situation. Talk about alternatives, such as calling a parent or trusted adult for a ride home. Remind your child that drinking coffee or other techniques for “sobering up” don’t actually work. He or she should not rely on these techniques to make a friend a safe and non-drinking driver. Kids who don’t consider all the consequences are more likely to ride with someone who has been drinking. Since kids pay most attention to short-term consequences, parents need to set clear no-alcohol use rules and enforce consequences. YOUNG PEOPLE DRINK DIFFERENTLY Kids may not consciously plan to drink, but they may take an opportunity to experiment. For example, they may be hanging out with friends at a home with an unlocked liquor cabinet, and decide to open up a bottle because there are no parents around. Sometimes, teens plan to binge (saying, for example, “Let’s go out and get hammered!”). Other times, they get caught up with drinking games or parties that get out of hand. Young people tend to engage in intense drinking, called “binge” drinking. For boys, binge drinking means having at least 5 drinks within a 2-hour period. For girls, it means at least 4 drinks within that time. Binge drinkers are more likely to be pushed, hit or attacked, confronted with unwanted sexual advances, sexually assaulted or seriously injured. 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, such as HIV.
Talking About Alcohol // Riding with an Impaired Driver // Young People Drink Differently
ENFORCING CONSEQUENCES Emphasize to your child how quickly drinking can lead to dangerous results. That’s why you take underage drinking so seriously. As a parent, be ready to follow through and enforce consequences if your child violates a family agreement.
• 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.
HIGH QUALITY AGREEMENTS A good agreement is clear and understood by all. However, parents and kids often make agreements only to have the child break them. Instead of being a true agreement, the agreement really imposes what the parent wants. 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. MADD urges you to make the following agreements with your middle and high schooler: • No drinking alcohol before age 21 • No socializing in places where kids are drinking • No riding in a car with a driver who has had any amount of alcohol
Talking About Alcohol // Enforcing Consequences // High Quality Agreements
Did you drink when you were young? Your son or daughter will probably ask if you ever drank when you were young. This may create a dilemma for parents. 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 child.
Download MADD’s parent handbooks at madd.org/powerofparents to read more on effective approaches that parents can use to answer this question.
TALKING SO KIDS WILL LISTEN The following strategies will help you communicate most effectively: Listen. Allow your child to speak without interruption. Listen to what he or she says. Speak with respect and appreciation. Your child still values your approval. Communicate directly. Pick a time to speak when you can have each other’s undivided attention. Emphasize common goals. Remind your child that you are on their side. Avoid communication “stoppers.” These are single statements that shut down any response. Recognize conflict is natural. We all have different beliefs and values; therefore disagreement is a natural thing. Agree to step away. Agree to temporarily stop talking if things don’t go well. 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. Avoid debate. If you find yourself debating, try suggesting that you both approach matters from a different angle.
Talking About Alcohol // Talking So Your Child Will Listen
Most kids say their parents are the leading influence on their decisions about drinking.
5 REASONS THAT CHILDREN RESPECT When you speak with your son or daughter about avoiding alcohol, emphasize the following reasons: Reason 1: Underage drinking is illegal. Most kids know it is illegal to drink under the age of 21. State clearly that you expect your child to obey the law. Reason 2: Drinking can make you sick, pass out, or die. Remind your child that alcohol sickness can happen suddenly and with little warning. Reason 3: Drinking can lead to assault. Kids who are drinking are more vulnerable to dangerous situations and often can’t escape the threat of rape or assault. Reason 4: Drinking can lead to early death. Heavy drinking can damage the liver, kidneys, brain, and heart, all with serious long-term consequences. Reason 5: Drinking might lead to being an alcoholic. Research clearly shows, however, that the younger a person starts drinking, the greater the chance they will develop alcohol problems later in life.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The best approach is to discuss realistic consequences in a straightforward and honest manner.
Talking About Alcohol // 5 Reasons Kids Respect
HELPING KIDS MAKE GOOD CHOICES The biggest reason why teens drink is peer pressure. A friend might directly suggest your child participate, saying “Let’s go get drunk,” or your teen might assume everyone else is doing it and that it’s an acceptable thing to do. Kids need ways to resist this pressure. You can suggest they use simple “one-liners” that remove the pressure without making a big scene or issue about it. For example, your child could respond simply: • “It’s just not for me; it’s not what I want.” • “I don’t drink.” • “No thanks.” Your child might also consider: • Offering an alternative, like “I’d rather have soda.” • Making an excuse, like “I have a test to study for tomorrow” or “My family is waiting for me, and I’ve got to go.” • Having an explanation, like “I really just don’t like the taste.” • Changing the subject. You can’t completely protect your son or daughter from peer pressure, but 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.
To learn about alternative activities to drinking that other kids have recommended and to take our underage drinking myths quiz, visit madd.org/powerofparents. ALTERNATIVE ACTIVITIES
Helping Kids Make Good Choices
CHOOSING FRIENDS Friendships are very important to kids, and they typically spend more and more time with friends. Parents need to know who their kids are spending time with and what they are doing on a daily basis. You can also encourage your son or daughter to have healthy friendships. Talk with your child about the true meaning of friendship. You can also encourage your son and daughter to have healthy friendships and avoid high risk situations by: • Monitoring social activities and supervise parties • Including friends you disapprove of in family activities to get to know the friend and share your family values. Don’t ban a friend. • Encouraging your child to participate in activities where they can meet friends with appropriate values. • Discussing ways your son or daughter can resist peer pressure.
TIP: USE A CODE WORD FOR SAFETY Kids find it hard to resist peer pressure, especially in a group. They may be too young to jump in a car and drive away from risky situations that include alcohol, so prepare them with an emergency code-word. Choose and practice a code word that your son or daughter can text you or phone you to get a ride home, no questions asked.
Helping Kids Make Good Choices // Choosing Friends
If you think your son or daughter might have a drinking problem, visit madd.org/powerofparents for signs to alert you to a potential drinking problem.
DON ’ T
• Discuss the problem calmly with your son or daughter. • Explain that you are concerned and willing to help. • Stay awake when your child stays out late, when possible, and show you are interested in what they are doing. • Seek professional help to handle this situation.
• Take over your child’s responsibilities. Instead, provide him or her with the means to take responsibility for himself or herself. • Argue with your son or daughter if she or he is drunk. • Make excuses or cover up for your son or daughter.
IN CONCLUSION To help keep your child safe: • Begin talking together specifically about alcohol. • Listen to your child’s concerns respectfully, and use positive parenting techniques. • Set clear no-alcohol use rules, and agree on appropriate consequences for breaking these rules. • Enforce consequences when the rules are broken. • Discuss short-term and long-term risks of underage alcohol use. • Help your child plan how to deal with social pressure to drink alcohol. • Keep track of where your child is, and with whom, on a regular basis. • Teach your child: no riding in a car with someone who has been drinking. • Make sure your child is in a monitored, alcohol-free environment. • Support school and community policies that keep alcohol away from underage youth. • Support the 21 Minimum Drinking Age law.
Helping Kids Make Good Choices // Could Your Child Have a Drinking Problem?
NATIONAL PRESENTING SPONSOR
NATIONAL SUPPORTING PARTNER
NATIONAL CONTRIBUTING PARTNER
NATIONAL PROGRAM PARTNERS
MADD is grateful to Robert Turrisi, Ph.D. and his colleagues at Pennsylvania State University for their partnership in this handbook. Dr. Turrisi has spent decades working with families and researching how parents can talk effectively about alcohol with their children. This handbook draws from this work and the body of scientific knowledge in the field. ACKNOWLEDGMENT
e mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving® is to end drunk driving, help ght drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking.
15 Program Partners // Acknowledgment
This resource can help parents substantially reduce the chance that their child will drink before the age of 21. Alcohol is the drug most commonly used by youth— more than all other illicit drugs combined. MADD’s Power of Parents handbooks are based on the latest research by Robert Turrisi, PhD, which when followed have shown up to a 30% reduction in underage drinking. The research-based principles and materials are not only useful to help parents have the critical discussions about alcohol with their children— from middle schoolers through college age—but can also be applied when having discussions about all other drugs. By talking to children early and often, parents can prevent dangerous and deadly consequences from alcohol and other drugs. These intentional, ongoing and life-changing conversations will help keep youth, families and entire communities healthy and safe. Together we can create a future of No More Victims®.
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