Tweens and Alcohol: More Aware Than You May Think

Learning how to talk about alcohol use can impact heir behavior as teens.

Posted Jul 06, 2014

Talking with tweens about alcohol can positively impact their behavior as teens.

Talking with tweens about alcohol can positively impact their behavior as teens

It seems quite understandable that so much time and teaching regarding alcohol use is spent on our teens. After all, many folks associate high school events with the first time they were faced with the dilemmas associated with alcohol use. According to research, we have done a good job educating our teens. In 2012 the CDC reported that over the last 20 years the numbers of teens drinking and driving has dropped dramatically. In addition, many other national polls and surveys tell us that teens value their parents opinions. In a recent poll conducted by an independent research firm for example, 71 percent of teens reported that they value their parent’s opinions on drinking (Research Now, 2013).

What many parents may fail to realize however, is just how young their kids are when they first become aware of alcohol and related issues. 64 percent of teens surveyed reported they knew about alcohol by fifth grade or younger. The majority of parents surveyed however, reported that they thought the best time to start talking about alcohol is in 6th to 8th grade. The gap in tween discovery and parent discussion is glaring.

Talking with tweens and teens about difficult topics can be a daunting task. While the majority of parents know what they must talk about, they are unclear about how and when. These telling tween related statistics suggest that many parents unfortunately are not talking soon enough.

Surveyed teens report that they worry about how their parents will approach the topic. Specifically half of them worry they will be subjected to lectures. The majority of parents (75 percent) relate that they do just that.

It is simply human nature that when we feel like we lack the ability to accomplish a task (such as talking to our kids about this sensitive subject) we are prone to procrastinate. This leaves our tweens open to forming impressions of their own. Through a multitude of media outlets, they are sure to take in information, draw conclusions, and develop specific points of view. The real question then becomes, are they forming the opinions that their parents would like to impart to them? Unless parents are ready to step in and provide support and guidance, there are few guarantees about what their tweens may be garnering.

How to talk to tweens about this somewhat mature topic can certainly be a challenge. The first step is to focus on presenting in a way they understand. A good way to do this is to look for opportunities to start conversations about the topic. If for example, a relative had too much to drink at a family event, talk with your tween about this. Ask her about her impressions of the situation. Validate what she thinks and encourage her to offer her insights, concerns and questions. Be mindful to hear her out. It is not uncommon for parents to cut off their child when she is talking about topics that make the parents uncomfortable. Parents should look to what their tweens know to provide conversation openers. A favorite TV show or alcohol related incident involving a favorite celebrity, provide prime opportunities to get them talking.

It is important to also understand that the alcohol talk is not a single event but a series of comprehensive conversations that will evolve over the years. The talk you have with your tween at age 12 will be quite different that the conversation you have with 16-year-old son who just got his license.

What is said is just as important as how it is said. The alcohol talk website serves as a great resource for parents looking for the right words regarding this sensitive topic.

Our tweens are living in a world in which information and exposure to situations is easily available. While this may make our job as parents more difficult, it also offers many opportunities to talk with our tweens. Tweens feel empowered when parents begin conversations by seeking opinions. This tactic can be especially effective when parents are seeking to reinforce values and offer support and guidance regarding sensitive subjects such as alcohol use. When armed with the appropriate information and resources, parents are ready to provide their tweens with education and encouragement to ensure that their tweens make positive and productive life choices. It is never too early to start talking to our tweens about alcohol as long as we understand that it is how we approach such a subject that can make all the difference.

About the Author

Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist and parenting expert specializing in work with tweens, teens, young adults, and their families.

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