Building Healthy Conversations Around Alcohol
Discussing alcohol with your teenagers can feel like a conversation you'd like to put off as long as possible. While avoiding the topic of alcohol seems like a "safe" idea at first, establishing yourself as a trusted authority and confidante around these decisions will help your children lean on you for guidance rather than discipline. Of course, your disciplinary philosophy can come later, but being proactive in teaching your children about the complicated nature of alcohol will keep you in their inner circle of knowledge so you can guide them well. Focus on these ideas as you navigate the ongoing conversations about alcohol use with your teens.
Information is Power
Teenagers inevitably will be faced with the decision to either accept or decline an alcoholic beverage. One of the most powerful things you can arm them with is accurate information so they know exactly what the consequences of their choices will be. Part of the "attractive" nature of alcohol for teens is the feeling of trying something unknown, and part of that temptation goes away when teens know the objective truth about what alcohol can do to their bodies and lives if taken too far. Help your teenagers plan for difficult conversations and situations where they will need to stand up for themselves or a friend. Share resources for emergencies and let them know you are available as a support system if they feel pressured. Lastly, teaching young adults about alcoholism with a recovery-based approach will help them feel like holistic treatment is possible if they or a loved one struggle with alcohol intake in the future.
Potential topics of education can include:
● Physical effects of alcohol, short and long term
● Social interactions and how to craft strong responses
● Resources and support for their friends if needed
● Health benefits of abstaining from alcohol
● Social norms and differentiating your "appropriate" ages and amounts for alcohol use
Clear and authentic communication with your teen will help them feel like they can come to you when faced with difficult choices around alcohol. There is always a healthy level of curiosity in teens about things that are "off-limits", so embrace their need for knowledge and get to the core of what they need to know. Perhaps your teen is not interested in alcohol, but simply needs tools to navigate a world where their friends are experimenting. Maybe they are interested in trying an alcoholic beverage but are not yet educated on the damaging effects on their developing brain. The context of your conversations will be unique, but your teenager will make far better informed decisions with your dialogue open for their curiosity. Arm yourself with resources and accurate information to guide them through a new concept of life.
Your teen may be curious about:
● What alcohol tastes like
● Why people like to get "drunk" or what the sensation feels like
● Rules and regulations they need to abide by legally
● Warning signs of alcohol abuse and addiction
● Resources where they can learn more on their own
Building a Healthy Social Life
Helping your teenager build a social life is one of the most actionable ways you can support them in navigating a teenage world. Since alcohol is more enticing to teenagers looking for something to do, help your young adult find genuine hobbies and activities to stay busy and energized, naturally reducing their desire to experiment. Sports and getting involved in activism are healthy alternatives where your teenagers will meet like-minded friends and spend their energy doing positive work. The more their social life naturally omits alcohol use, the more this feels like their norm in a way that is not forced.
Creative ideas to keep your teens engaged in positive activities include:
● Clubs and academic activities
● Religious groups or trips
● Hobbies and classes to develop their curiosities
● Inviting their friends over for time outside or watching movies
● Meditation and building a mindful lifestyle
Building healthy conversations around alcohol use does not need to feel like a high pressure situation. Beginning your open conversations with acceptance and saving space for your child's curiosity will help them feel like you are a resource who will never judge or prevent them from learning valuable knowledge. This can even be a chance for them to learn from your own experiences and build trust with you knowing you are here to guide, not to scold. Enjoy these ideas for bringing positivity and optimism for your conversations about alcohol with your teen, so they feel empowered and protected based on their own self-efficacy.
Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. http://patrickbaileys.com
PLEASE NOTE: The writers of this article are not medical professionals. The information in this column is not intended and should not be construed as providing medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information and provide a perspective to better understand the lives of themselves and their children. Articles on this website may be opinion based. The articles are not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, psychotherapist or other licensed medical professional. If you do have health or safety concerns, please get in touch with a healthcare professional.