“I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Anheuser-Busch’s Family Talk About Drinking program. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.”
Recently, I was invited to be an Ambassador for the Family Talk About Drinking program, which focuses on the importance of having real conversations with your kids about alcohol and underage drinking prevention. Being a mom of teens, and knowing that most of my readers have children, I was thrilled to be given this opportunity to look more closely at what we can do to openly discuss underage drinking with our children of all ages. And I do mean all ages. In fact, according to MJ Corcoran, an educator, certified parent coach and leading expert, there are three main stages of parenting:
1) Teacher (for children ages 1-7) At this age, the focus needs to be on becoming the one your child goes to for information about alcohol. Can your kids ask you questions, even hard questions, and get an honest answer? This is when building trust happens, friends. If you are on your laptop and give them a simple “uh-huh” instead of stopping what you’re doing to focus on the question at hand, they may think it’s just not important to you. Build that trust now, so when the really tough questions surface, you’ll have that dialogue already open.
2) Facilitator (for children ages 8-13) This is the time in your child’s like where things begin to get complicated, and the time when your kids are looking to you to help them make sense of things. Our kids are starting to be influenced by their peers. They are starting to ask questions like, “Why are my friends allowed to do that, but I can’t?” This can be a scary time. Remember, we aren’t losing influence as long as we keep those conversations open.
3) Coach (for children ages 14-21+) This is where I am with both of my children right now. I have one turning 18 and one turning 15. It’s hard to believe my kids are really no longer children, but young adults. At this stage, they have a pretty good sense of who they are, and what they believe. As my kids are homeschooled, we spend a lot of time together. Most families, including ours, are very busy. With sports, homework, church and other activities, where do you find time to sit down and talk? The dinner table is a great place to have those conversations. One of the biggest barriers to communicating with teens is our belief that their problems are trivial. If we don’t think the issues they are facing are important, it gives them the perfect reason to shut us out.
As we are already into prom season this year, let’s focus on how parents of teens can use these “coaching” practices to to guide their children through situations where chances are pretty good they may encounter alcohol.
- Show your child you trust them by setting clear boundaries.
- Encourage and affirm the good choices they have made so far.
- Listen with an open mind. (Turn off the TV, close your laptop, and really listen.)
- Encourage smart decisions by working through scenarios where your child may encounter alcohol.
Our kids learn about fire drills even in kindergarten. How about a peer-pressure drill for our older kids? Ask those open-ended questions to get the conversation going:
- If there’s drinking at that party, what will you do?
- What do you think about kids who drink?
- If your friends wanted to drink, how would you handle it?
- What’s the hardest thing to deal with when it comes to just being yourself around your friends?
- It was crazy being a teenager when I was young. What’s it like for you?
Be sure that your teen knows if they ever have a question about alcohol, they can count on you to listen and give them honest answers. Even more important, make sure they know if they ever are in a situation where they have to choose between getting in a car with a drunk driver or calling you, they can call and you will come get them with no questions asked. Also, explain that there is no such thing as a “little bit drunk.” If their driver has been drinking, they should not be driving.
I’d love for you to visit the Family Talk About Drinking resources on their website as well as their Facebook page. You can even download the Parent Guide and print it out to have for viewing later. Take it with you for the next time you’re waiting in carpool or at the dentist office. I really think you’ll be glad you took the time to read it. To be honest, talking to our kids about drinking doesn’t initially involve our kids at all. It’s more about answering the following questions ourselves:
- What do I really think about alcohol and underage drinking?
- What rules do I, or we as a family, want to communicate?
- Are we prepared to back up our advice with our own actions?
- When it comes down to having this discussion with our kids, what are we trying to accomplish?
- Are we trying to protect our children, or give them necessary skills they need to be able to make decisions?
I’ll be sharing more about the Family Talk About Drinking program over the next month or so, and I’d love to hear about how you plan to use some of these resources to talk to your teens about situations that may arise during this season of proms, graduations, and high school parties. Let’s talk about it. You may have some wonderful ideas that have worked for you that we haven’t even thought of yet! Please share in the comments below.
Thanks for visiting.