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Prevent Underage Drinking – How to Send a Clear Message on Alcohol to Your Children

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Research shows that parents who talk to their children about alcohol and who send clear messages in word and deed about the unacceptability of underage and excessive drinking rear children who go on to have fewer problems with alcohol.1

Don’t assume that your kids know where you stand on underage drinking, make your family’s no-drinking policy crystal clear to everyone in the house – and make sure that everyone knows the consequences for infractions against this policy. Remember also that your children model your behaviors and attitudes as much (or more) as they listen to your words – so if you don’t practice what you preach you send your children contradictory messages about alcohol, and increase their risks of getting started at a young age.

Here are 7 great ways to make sure your kids get a message on alcohol that’s going to keep them happy and safe and minimize their risks of substance abuse problems (as recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA).

7 Ways to Send the RIGHT Message about Alcohol Use

  1. Talk to your children about the unacceptability of underage drinking. Make sure your children know that no underage drinking is tolerable and make sure that everyone in the household knows the consequences for infractions – and make sure to follow through with any threatened disciplinary action.
  2. Teach your kids that underage drinking is dangerous, that it can increase their risks of becoming an alcoholic later in life and that overdosing on alcohol can lead to death.
  3. Teach your kids that underage drinking is against the law and that underage drinkers caught by the police can face legal consequences.
  4. Teach your children to have fun without the use of alcohol.
  5. Set a good example: don’t drink to excess in front of your children and never drive while intoxicated.
  6. Don’t glamorize drinking through ‘war stories’ of your own wilder days. If you tell your children anything about examples of your own underage drinking, make sure to stress that your actions were wrong and explain the negative consequences of those actions.
  7. Keep track of alcohol in your house, especially at any parties thrown by your children.2
  • 1. Hawkins JD, Graham JW, Maguin E, et al. 1997. Exploring the Effects of Age of Alcohol Use Initiation and Psychosocial Risk Factors on Subsequent Alcohol Misuse. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 58 (3): 280-290.
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Page last updated Jan 26, 2011

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