Making Good Choices


Mothers Against Drunk Driving®

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How to use this guide

Underage drinking poses a special risk to young people. It is illegal and dangerous. This topical guide urges parents to: • Use recommended strategies about how to talk with your children about alcohol, even if it does not seem like they are interested in alcohol. Talk early, and talk often. • Read the information about peer pressure within this guide and think about ways you can help your children think through alternatives. • Set clear family rules about not drinking before 21 and follow through with consequences when agreements aren’t met.


What’s Inside

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A MESSAGE TO PARENTS FROM DR. TURRISI AND MADD Research shows that young people who drink are a danger to themselves, their friends, and others. For over 20 years, hundreds of high quality clinical studies in the United States and Europe have shown that the earlier in life young people drink, the more frequent and severe the problems they face in the short and long term. Science shows that a child’s brain works differently from an adult’s brain. It is important to realize that no matter how mature young people act they are not simply small versions of adults. Young peoples’ brains are still in a critical period of development well into their 20’s. Alcohol interferes with both how brains and bodies grow. As a parent, you have power to equip your child to make smarter, safer choices and to help prevent tragedies. This topical guide will help you understand your own parenting style and how it can impact on your child’s choice to drink alcohol. We urge you to read MADD’s full parent handbooks, found at powerofparents, for more information on how to talk with middle or high school- aged children to help shape the choices they make regarding alcohol. These conversations will have an impact on their physical and emotional development and could be lifesaving.

This is the fourth in a series of five topical guides. Download MADD’s full parent handbook at


A Message to Parents

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DEALING WITH PEER PRESSURE One of the biggest reasons young people drink is peer influences. There are direct peer influences (being directly offered alcohol) and indirect influences (the idea that everyone is doing it). Research has shown that the indirect influences tend to be the stronger peer influence. Why? Studies have shown that when young people are asked about how many kids their age drink, they overestimate the actual percent of kids that are drinking. This idea that “a lot of people are drinking,” has another important peer influence effect. If students think more people drink than do, then they also are more likely to believe that the kids who do not drink are in the minority. This means drinking becomes normal and not drinking is abnormal. The problem with this line of reasoning is that neither are true . Studies show that the majority of young people in high school do not drink and it is actually more normal to not drink than it is to drink. Parents can help correct these misconceptions and reduce the amount of peer pressure their kids feel to drink alcohol.

have an impact on their choices. !

REMEMBER! You cannot completely protect your child from peer pressure. You can, however, teach them how to make good choices. Help them consider how other adults or people they respect might view their choice to drink. This can

4 Dealing With Peer Pressure

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WHAT PEER PRESSURE MIGHT LOOK LIKE “Everyone drinks.” “It’s just part of growing up.” “No one will know.” “It’s a lot of fun.” “You deserve to party.” “Why are you here if you aren’t going to drink?” “C’mon, it’s not a big deal, have some.” WHAT ALTERNATIVE RESPONSES MIGHT LOOK LIKE “I’m good. That stuff isn’t for me.” “I don’t need alcohol to have fun.” “I can’t, I have a big test (or something else) tomorrow.” “I don’t like the taste.” “I’m driving.” “My parents will ground me if they find out and prom is next week.”

FACT: Not every teen drinks. One in four teens drink underage, which means three out of four teens DO NOT. One in seven teens binge drink, which means six in seven DO NOT.


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CONNECTING WITH YOUR CHILD Research shows that the more you connect with your kids, the more protected they are against alcohol and other drug use. Try: • Having dinner together • Talking together • Enjoying activities together • Finding something you like to do together

When you talk, it is important that you keep three things in mind:

1. Asking how, why, and what questions will be more effective to get your kids engaged and involved than lecturing to them about what they should or should not do. 2. Keeping your cool and not getting angry if you hear things that you do not like.

3. Your child needs you and these conversations… keep it going.

Download the high school and middle school parent handbooks online at powerofparents for more tips.

6 Connecting With Your Child

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FINDING ALTERNATIVES Young people sometimes justify underage drinking as an appropriate answer to certain situations. Take a look at the chart below for some “positive” reasons some kids say drinking is okay and how you can potentially help them find alternatives. REASON ALTERNATIVE

Playing games or video games, shopping, dinner with friends, a movie, a trip, have friends over at your house where you can supervise.


Problems don’t go away…help your teen confront those in a productive way. Exercise or physical activity is a great stress reducer as well.


Acknowledge that being shy is tough, but remind your child that alcohol interferes with communication and causes you to agree to things you will regret later. Talk to your son or daughter about making good choices for friends. True friends don’t make you do something you don’t want to do in order to fit in. This can be very difficult. Talk and be patient. Exercise, go to a movie, call a friend or favorite relative, try a new dessert; remind them that the “high” of alcohol is accompanied by an extreme “low” that negates what they are trying to achieve.




Kids who drink before 21 are more likely to: • Face problems in school • Be assaulted • Abuse alcohol later in life • Drown or experience a fatal fall • Die in a car crash Share the facts

7 Finding Alternatives

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CHOOSING FRIENDS Friendships are very important. Parents need to know who their kids are spending time with, because as they get older, they spend more time with friends than with family. Parents can try to influence who their kids pick for friends, but parents cannot choose their kids’ friends. Monitoring and listening is important. Talk to your children about what a healthy friendship looks like. True friendship is not based on popularity or being “cool”. Friends should share a mutual respect, understanding and trust. Real friends want to keep their friends safe. Good problem solving

1. Notice a problem. 2. Identify actions.

3. Consider pros and cons to each action. 4. Pick the one you think, after careful consideration, will offer the best outcome. 5. Execute your decision.

You cannot choose your child’s friends, but you can monitor their activities to help them avoid high-risk situations.

8 Choosing Friends

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If your child is going to a party, find out if it will be supervised and by whom. Making this a habit will send a clear message to your child about the importance of safe and

healthy environments. DON’T BAN A FRIEND.

Possibly the worst thing you can do is ban friend you do not approve of. Kids choose friends they have something in common with. Kids value friends and will defend them at all costs, in part because they are defending what they have in common. Try getting to know the friend better instead and include them in family activities. This helps them understand your family values. ENCOURAGE MORE FRIENDS. A really good strategy to help children deal with peer influence is to encourage having more activities with different groups of people. More social experiences helps prevent undue influence by a single “bad” friend. Support a variety of activities so that they can vary their friend groups. TIP: USE A CODE WORD FOR SAFETY Peer pressure is tough to resist. Help your child find an easy way out of a potentially dangerous situation by texting or calling you with a code word or phrase that will let you know they need your help.

Find out more about helping your child develop healthy friendships online at powerofparents.


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NEVER RIDE WITH A DRINKING DRIVER Set a clear family rule: No riding with a driver who has been drinking. Discuss with your child the dangers of riding with ANYONE who has been drinking. Teens need to understand that alcohol affects those under the age of 21 differently than adults. There is no safe amount that an underage drinker can consume and then drive. Help your child make a plan and know what to do if they are ever in this situation.

Sobering Myths

After drinking, the liver removes alcohol from the 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 quickly than time. You cannot get sober faster by: • Drinking coffee • Eating food • Taking a cold shower • Exercising • Getting fresh air Remind your child: NEVER RIDE IN A CAR WITH A DRIVER WHO IS “TRYING TO SOBER UP!” SAFETY FIRST Don’t worry about sending the wrong message by offering a ride to a teen who has been drinking. You can always enforce previously discussed rules later, but safety is the first priority. Encourage young people to always call a parent or trusted adult if they need a safe ride home, even if they need the ride because they themselves have made a poor choice.



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GET BEHIND 21: Did you know that 21 is one of the most researched laws? Numerous studies show that the 21 drinking age law has saved thousands of lives. There are no benefits to drinking underage. No matter where the study is conducted, the results are always the same. If drinking was helpful to young people wouldn’t doctors and teachers recommend it? As a parent, be ready to follow through and enforce consequences if your child violates a family rule against underage drinking. ! BOTTOM LINE Friendships are incredibly valuable to youth. Teens say one of the biggest reasons they choose to drink is peer pressure. You cannot completely protect your child from peer pressure, but you can help by teaching them to make good choices and monitoring their activities. Communication is key. Work now to open those lines of communication so that when it matters, they will call you for help. Whether it is your teen who made the bad choice or your teen’s friend, when you pick them up: • Be calm and not expressively angry on the way home. • If an established rule was broken, pick the soonest appropriate time to discuss consequences with your teen. It is generally better to wait until the next day. • Talk again about the rules and consequences. You only want to keep him or her safe from harm.

11 Safety First

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This series of resources 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 at Penn State University, 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 school through high school—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®.





MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING 511 E. John Carpenter Frwy, Suite 700 Irving, TX 75062

877.ASK.MADD 877.MADD.HELP 24-Hour Victim Help Line


© 2017 Mothers Against Drunk Driving

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