You’ve tamed the tantrums, prevailed through Pampers® and potty training, and took on the role of tooth fairy many times, but that was a few years ago. Now you’re faced with a new challenge: dealing with your child’s early adolescence (ages 10-14) and the possibility that he or she might begin using alcohol.
Dramatic physical and emotional changes affect most 10- to 14-year-olds, and often lead to feelings of awkwardness and self-consciousness. Add the effects of peer pressure and this becomes a very impressionable time, a period where children are likely to experiment with alcohol and other harmful substances. But take heart: Study after study has shown that even during the teen years, parents have enormous influence on their children’s behavior.
The best way to influence your adolescent to avoid drinking is to have a strong, trusting relationship with him or her. It is especially important to let your child know that in your eyes, he or she does measure up and that you care for him or her very deeply. When children have a strong bond with a parent, they are more likely to feel good about themselves and less prone to cave in to peer pressure. Having a positive relationship with you may also influence your child to live up to your expectations because he or she wants to keep a close tie with you.
Talking with your child is the best way to help him or her avoid the risks of dangerous behavior. Many parents may feel uneasy bringing up the subject of alcohol, and your young teen may try to dodge the discussion. You should take the time to think about the issues you want to discuss before your talk, as well as how you will answer any questions your child may have. This discussion should be just the first part of an ongoing, comfortable, and open conversation.
Always remember: You can make a difference in the choices your child makes, and now is the time to act. You can get good practical tips on how to help your child make the right decisions in a new booklet, Make a Difference–Talk to your child about Alcohol. It is from the experts at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
DiSCLAIMER: The content of this site is offered as educational material for parents, not as medical advice. If you have a question about a specific condition or symptom your child has then you need to consult a medical professional.