Discussion Checklist


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. Using strategies from MADD’s Power of Parents® handbooks, this discussion guide prepares parents to: • Talk with your child about alcohol. • Ask questions to encourage an exchange of ideas. • Discuss clear family rules about not drinking before 21 or riding in a car with someone who has been drinking. • Agree on consequences if agreements aren’t met.


REMEMBER: Parents do matter! If possible, discuss your plan to begin the conversations about alcohol with your teen with your child’s other parent and/or any caregivers. Agree together to uphold your family rules and to follow through with consequences. Read MADD’s Power of Parents handbook or topical guides, then use this tool to facilitate discussions with your teen or to prepare you to begin talking together about alcohol.


What’s Inside

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A MESSAGE TO PARENTS FROM DR. TURRISI AND MADD Research shows that kids 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 kids drink, the more 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 kids act they are not simply small versions of adults. Kids’ brains are still in a critical period of development well into their 20’s. Alcohol interferes with 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 discussion guide will help you facilitate conversation with your child about alcohol. We urge you to read MADD’s full parent handbooks, found at madd.org/ powerofparents, for more information on how to talk with your middle or high school-aged child 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 topical guide may help guide a discussion, but please take the time to review the full handbook for more detailed information about talking to your kids about alcohol.

This is the fifth in a series of five topical guides. Download MADD’s full parent handbook at madd.org/powerofparents.


A Message to Parents

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EMPHASIZE 21 Drinking alcohol is illegal for everyone younger than age 21. Numerous studies show the 21 drinking age law has reduced underage drinking and saved thousands of lives. Young people tend to overestimate how many other kids their age are drinking alcohol or are using other drugs. “I love you and want you to have the brightest future possible. That’s why there’s no drinking until you turn 21.” “How does drinking before the age of 21 affect someone?” “What answers could teens give if they’re pushed to drink before 21?” “Why do you think some people would start drinking before 21?” Conversation Starters HAVE YOUR TEEN FINISH THE STORY: Jilly, 18, is a senior and the youngest of three sisters. She tells her parents that she will be going to parties this year and will drink at some. She tells her parents that she is just being honest and will never drive and never get into a car with someone that has been drinking. She wants to be open with her parents.

Tell me what are things that might happen to Jilly?

What are some things her parents can do?

4 Emphasize 21

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FACT CHECK Most of your child’s peers are NOT drinking. In fact, teens and parents often overestimate how many teens are drinking or have tried alcohol.

Check out the full Power of Parents handbook online at madd.org/powerofparents for more information, facts and stats about the dangers of underage drinking.

Conversation Starters “Not everyone is drinking. Multiple studies have shown that only one in seven teens binge drink, so six in seven DO NOT.” “How do you think your friends feel about drinking?” “What are some consequences of drinking alcohol?” “Why do teens think everyone else is drinking?” HAVE YOUR TEEN FINISH THE STORY: Kiery, 16, is going to party with three of her friends. They make a plan that they will not drink when they are at the party. When they get to the party another friend greets them and hands them cups with red punch.

Tell me what are things that might happen to Kiery?

What are some things her parents can do?


Fact Check

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Conversation Starters TALK AND THINK Drinking is especially damaging to young brains. The brain is not fully developed until about age 25. Additionally, youth who drink tend to make very dangerous choices while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. “The brain is not finished developing until the mid 20s. Early alcohol use puts your developing brain at risk and substantially increases the risk of addiction.” “How might alcohol affect your future plans and goals?” “What impact do you think alcohol has on the growing brain?” “Why do you think drinking is dangerous at your age?” HAVE YOUR TEEN FINISH THE STORY: Connor, 17, has just gotten his driver’s license. He promises his parents he will never drink and drive. He says he wants to be a designated driver for his friends.

What kind of challenges will Connor face?

What are some things his parents can do?


Talk and Think

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Conversation Starters DISCUSS ALTERNATIVES Some teens believe drinking: • helps celebrate a special occasion • reduces worries/stress • makes it easier to express feelings or talk with members of the opposite sex • helps them to fit into a group • helps lift their mood • provides entertainment or a solution for boredom There are other, more positive ways to achieve similar goals. “I can’t completely protect you from peer pressure, but I’d like to talk with you about some choices you will have related to alcohol.” “How would you handle an invitation to a party where you know there will be alcohol?” “What motivates teens to drink? What are good alternatives?” “Why do you think other kids you know choose to drink?”



Discuss Alternatives

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Conversation Starters PROVIDE REASONS There are plenty of reasons NOT to drink alcohol before 21. Not only is it illegal, but drinking can make you sick, pass out, lead to sexual assault, early death, or to becoming an alcoholic. “Research clearly shows that the younger a person starts drinking, the greater the chance they will develop alcohol problems later in life.”

“How do you think alcohol affects choices?”

“What could go wrong? Is it really worth it?”

“Do you understand why the law is 21 and not 18?


Download the full handbook online at madd.org/ powerofparents for more facts about underage drinking. Know the actual data versus common assumptions so you can set appropriate rules and consequences.


Provide Reasons

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Conversation Starters RESIST PRESSURE Sometimes, kids face situations where they are pressured to do something they would rather not do. Someone you consider a friend might even push you to drink alcohol when you don’t want to. 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. “A big reason why teens drink is peer pressure. You’ll need some ways to resist this pressure and rely on your own values, beliefs, and attitudes.” “How can you stay safe if you find yourself in a situation where alcohol is present?”

“What makes someone a good friend?”

“Why might it be tough to resist the pressure to drink?”



Resist Pressure

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Conversation Starters It is illegal for teens to drink alcohol, and it is illegal for teens to drink any amount of alcohol and drive. 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. “Someday you may be faced with deciding whether or not to ride in a car with someone who has been drinking. Getting into a car with any impaired driver is extremely dangerous.” “How could you get home or to your destination if you’re with a driver who has been drinking or using drugs?”

“What are the dangers involved with anyone who is driving impaired?”

“Why do you think teens might choose to get in the car with a driver even when they are clearly impaired?”




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RULE: No drinking alcohol before 21. CONSEQUENCE:

RULE: No riding in a car with anyone who is impaired.


RULE: No attending parties where alcohol or other drugs are present.


RULE (create your own):


Visit madd.org/ powerofparents for more helpful tips about helping your child make good choices.

11 Parent/Teen Agreement

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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 madd.org/powerofparents

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


© 2017 Mothers Against Drunk Driving

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