Almost every parent and teenager knows about and dreads “the talk”.
“The talk” is when a parent tries to have a conversation with their child about sex. This can often be a very awkward and uncomfortable conversation for both parent and child. Most parents have no idea when they should have this talk with their kids or how to go about it. Instead, many choose to avoid it. When their parents don’t speaking to them about the topic, kids instead learn from other sources such as friends, music, television, and the internet.
This same issue exists when it comes to alcohol use. Avoidance of the issue and delaying conversations will force the child to learn from other sources, as well as through their own experimentation. This experimentation can be very dangerous and can cause a myriad of problems in the future.
Proactive parents who are involved in their children’s lives, and don’t shy away from tough topics such as alcohol use, can help prevent these future problems.
The prevailing belief held by many parents is that they should talk to their kids about drugs and alcohol when they get to high school, because that is where their kids will be exposed to it. This is actually not true.
In fact, 20% of 8th grade students report having been drunk at least once in their lives. The best advice for parents when talking to their kids about these issues is to talk about it before it becomes an issue.
Another common mistake that parents make when talking to their kids about alcohol is to offer the overly simplistic “alcohol is bad so don’t do it” message. This can often do more harm than good. If kids hear this, but then witness a parent or family member drinking alcohol, it can create confusion and a mixed message.
Instead, parents should seek to provide their children with knowledge about alcohol. Speaking to children about the facts such as alcohol’s effect on the body, addiction, and deaths caused by alcohol can actually have a much greater impact. The key to helping your child make good decisions is to be honest, loving, patient, and trusting.
Some tips for talking to your children:
Encourage conversation- Encourage your child to talk about their interests and allow them to teach you something. With the doors to communication open, talking about more serious topics will be easier and less uncomfortable for you and your children.
Ask open ended questions- The key is to not ask questions that can have a yes or no answer. This allows your child to express how they feel about a particular issue and prevents a conversation from turning into a lecture.
Control your emotions- If you hear something that you don’t like, try not to respond with anger, because this can discourage your child from being open and honest with you in the future. Instead, respond in a constructive manner that will address the issue without closing the lines of communication.
Something as simple as a conversation can change the course of a child’s life, so speak to your kids today.
By Antony Thottukadavil