Thank you Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for sponsoring this post. Learn more about how you can prevent underage drinking at KnowWhenKnowHow.org.
A few weeks ago, I shared with you a few tips for talking to your kids about underage drinking. Today, I want to share with you some of the questions that came up from my son during our discussion. Some of them I was ready for, while others caught me a little off guard. I hope that by sharing them with you, you’ll be even more prepared than I was to talk to your kids about the dangers of drinking underage.
5 Tough Questions Your Kids Have About Drinking That May Surprise You
How you answer your kids’ questions will depend a lot on your parenting style, your child’s maturity and personality, and your own lifestyle. I’ve shared my responses to give you some ideas, but that in no way means they’re the only correct responses. You’ll need to decide what is best for your kids. Now, let’s check out the questions.
1. Why do people drink?
This is the first question my son asked, and probably the hardest one to answer. How you answer it will depend a lot on your personal beliefs and lifestyle. You can explain that some adults drink alcohol as part of a religious ritual, while others drink certain wines with dinner to enhance the flavors.
I also explained to my son that some people just like the way it makes them feel, and that they may drink to forget about their problems. If you choose to explain this side of why people drink, make sure you follow up with the facts. Alcohol may make some people feel good while they’re drinking it, but the next morning they often feel miserable, and if they keep drinking a lot they run the risk of developing health problems or becoming addicted to alcohol.
2. What’s the big deal if it’s just a sip to see what it tastes like?
While many parents think underage drinking is the least of their worries, even a sip of alcohol if you’re underage is illegal and can lead to other risky behaviors. Still, kids are curious. I explained to my son that just because we’re curious about something doesn’t mean we should do it. I mean, I often wonder if my dog’s bacon-flavored treats actually taste like bacon, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to take a bite out of them to find out!
Let them know that if they’re still curious at age 21, then they can taste it. Point out the other things that they can’t do until a certain age, like driving a car or voting.
3. Did you ever drink underage?
This is the one question that I dreaded because I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a well-behaved teen. If you can honestly say no, then you’re good to go! If, however, you did drink before you turned 21, you’ll have to decide how you want to answer based on what you think your kids can handle.
I opted for the truth. I made sure he knew that I realized I made bad choices and I shared some of the negative effects that I suffered (physically, socially, and emotionally) because of those choices. Then I reminded him that he is much smarter than I was and that I know he won’t make the same mistakes that I did.
4. What if my friends try to talk me into drinking?
Peer pressure is tough. Kids want so much to be accepted by their friends that they’ll do things they normally wouldn’t even consider doing on their own. Avoid throwing trite clichés at them, like “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” They weren’t helpful when we were little and they’re no more relevant today.
Instead, help your kids find ways to say “no” that let them save face with their peers. I told my son to just say he’s severely allergic. Yes, it’s a lie, and we want to encourage our kids to always be honest, but I’d rather see him get out of the situation quickly with a fib than say something like “I’m not allowed” and leave the door wide open for his friends to keep pressuring him or start teasing him. Remember, 1-in-3 kids have tried alcohol before age 8! I’m open to any ideas to keep my son from becoming a statistic.
5. Is drinking alcohol really dangerous, or are you just saying that so I won’t do it?
Telling your kids that drinking is “bad for you” will only get you so far. Most of us have overused the “bad for you” thing and our kids tune it out. It’s fine to use it for less serious matters, like why your child can’t have cookies for lunch. For the important things, though, be prepared to go a little more in-depth. I made this kid-friendly graphic to demonstrate the potential physical dangers to my son.
If you’re really struggling to answer your kids’ questions about underage drinking, try talking to a school counselor or your child’s pediatrician. They’ve heard pretty much every question that could possibly come up and spent years perfecting their responses. You can also learn more here.
Your kids may come up with other questions that completely surprise you. If you don’t know the answer, be honest. Tell your child you don’t know, and then research it together. The important thing is to keep the conversation flowing. Remember, kids ages 8-11 are most responsive to your input, so start the conversation early!
Don’t forget, you can serve as a responsible role model for your kids by using everyday opportunities and circumstances to discuss the risks and consequences of underage drinking.
Have you already talked to your kids about underage drinking? What questions did they ask that surprised you? Tell us below!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
34 thoughts on “5 Tough Questions Your Kids Have About Underage Drinking That May Surprise You”
Parents should have open ended questions with their kids young. The earlier the better!
It’s not an easy topic to discuss with the kids but it’s definitely important. I think these questions are very helpful.
This is a topic that needs to be discussed with kids. I think it’s never too early to explain to kids what alcohol is.
The stats are seriously freaking me out. Kids as young as 8? I’ve got an 8-year-old and she seems so young to worry about that. Guess it’s never too early.
Sometimes kids come up with the toughest questions and so it’s important to have discussion topics and answers ready… especially for serious conversations like these. So important to talk about the implications of underage drinking!
This is such an important topic. I have always discussed drinking with my kids, and still do even though they are in college now. I’m grateful neither of them like to drink.
These are such tough questions and we are only touching upon them now. I too agree that telling them the truth is key.
This is really helpful. Love your questions….. My son asked me why adults drink and we talked about it. I want to make sure he knows he can talk to me.
It’s important to address these things early, and instill a healthy fear of drinking in the kids. There’s no way I want to take a chance of missing these conversations and allowing my kids to get caught up in all that comes with drinking in their youth simply because I never thought to, or didn’t bring it up.
We have some people who abuse drinking in our family so we’ve always been very open and honest with our kids. They ask tough questions but luckily are very informed.
This is really helpful. My oldest asked me why adults drink and having to put it into words changed my perspective.
Those stats are staggering! I’m all for talking about drinking with my kids. They’ve all been around when we’ve had family functions and the adults are having a drink or two, so they already know we drink.
Those are scary statistics, I never thought kids that young would drink or have access to alcohol. My daughter is 16.5 and has encountered alcohol at parties and i know she and her friends have tried it. I trust her maybe I should not?
This is such a great resource for parents, especially me! Two of my kids are at the age where I’ll need to sit down and talk with them about this VERY soon.
Not an easy thing to talk about, but totally necessary! These are all valid questions, too!
It’s not something we’ve encountered yet but I know these tough questions do come up. My parents rarely drunk in front of us so we never really asked these questions
This list is very accurate. Thank you for covering this for us. It will come in handy.
Sipping is a real killer. I remember when I was young I would ask for just a sip, and I would get one. That is a slippery slope.
This is such an important topic that every parent should discuss with their children. I am glad you addressed this because it will be so much easier for us when the time comes!
These are great. So far I haven’t had my kids curious about drinking mainly because my husband and I rarely do it in front of the kids. We might have wine around a holiday, but that’s about it.
As a Mother of three, thank you! There are so many topics I am dreading and this is one of them.
I definitely dread the “Did you do it?” question. Kids come up with the toughest but sometimes, the most relevant questions.
It’s so important to talk to kids about drinking. Being prepared for hard questions they may ask will help.
Underage drinking is a big thing now. Lots of children at my kids school drink and they definitely aren’t 21 yet.
I have still struggled with how to handle this with my kids. I do not drink at all, just never liked the taste of any of it so I cannot relate to people wanting to drink. But I know it is their choice to do at the right time.
My husband and I have always had a very open relationship, and they have spoken to us about everything. We didn’t have any trouble trying to decide on how to answer questions like these. However, these are great points for those that are having the trouble answering their kids questions.
Good strategies. Definitely can’t rely on the “not allowed” response or “jump off a bridge” techniques. Didn’t think of the allergic response – that’s an interesting one!
There will always be difficult to answer questions when it comes to topics like this. I think it’s important that we be careful with how we say our answers and to be honest and precise.
A kid from our local high school lost their life to underage drinking and driving a couple of years ago so our school has been very proactive in educating teens AND parents about underage drinking. It’s a difficult conversation but unfortunately a necessary one.
Showing them the graph may help grab attention. It is good to have a resource for this.
Kids do have tough questions when it comes to underage drinking. My grandfather was an alcoholic so I’m totally against drinking because of that.
These are questions that are very important to answer! I think his curiosity is a good thing and if you able to understand more I think it will be less curious to know what it is and less apt to drink underage,
We were asked these questions by all our kids. Yes they have tried drinking. Very happy to say they didn’t care for it and are not interested in drinking now.
This is important to talk to your kids about! My son is 16 and he seems to understand the dangers. When my daughter is a bit older I’ll discuss it with her. I hope my kids are like me: I never drank as a teen! I thought alcohol was gross.