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.