Communication Tips for Teens

Developing open, trusting communication between you and your child is essential to helping your child avoid alcohol use. If your child feels comfortable talking openly with you, you’ll have a greater chance of guiding him or her toward healthy decision making. Some ways to begin:

  • Encourage conversation. Encourage your child to talk about whatever interests him or her. Listen without interruption and give your child a chance to teach you something new. Your active listening to your   child’s enthusiasms paves the way for conversations about topics that concern you.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Encourage your teen to tell you how he or she things and feels about the issue you’re discussing. Avoid questions that have a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
  • Control your emotions. If you hear something you don’t like, try not to respond with anger. Instead, take a few deep breaths and acknowledge your feelings in a constructive way.
  • Make every conversation a “win-win” experience. Don’t lecture or try to “score points” on your teen by showing how he or she is wrong. If you show respect for your child’s viewpoint, he or she will be more likely to listen to and respect yours.
  • Draw the line. Set clear, realistic expectations for your child’s behavior. Establish appropriate consequences for breaking rules and consistently enforce them.
  • Offer acceptance. Make sure your teen knows that you appreciate his or her efforts as well as accomplishments. Avoid hurtful teasing or criticism.
  • Understand that your child is growing up. This doesn’t mean a hands-off attitude. But as you guide your child’s behavior, also make an effort to respect his or her growing need for independence and privacy.

Good Reasons for Teens Not to Drink

  • You want your child to avoid alcohol.
  • You want your child to maintain self-respect.
  • You want them to know drinking is illegal.
  • Drinking at their age can be dangerous.
  • You may have a family history of alcoholism.

Six ways to say no to a drink

At some point, your child will be offered alcohol. To resist such pressure, teens say they prefer quick ”one-liners” that allow them to dodge a drink without making a big scene. It will probably work best for your teen to take the lead in thinking up comebacks to drink offers so that he or she will feel comfortable saying them. But to get the brainstorming started, here are some simple pressure-busters- from the mildest to the most assertive.

1. No thanks.
2. I don’t feel like it- do you have any soda?
3. Alcohol’s NOT my thing.
4. Are you talking to me? Forget it.
5. Why do you keep pressuring me when I’ve said NO?
6. Back off!

How to host a teen party

  • Agree on a guest list-and don’t admit party crashers.
  • Discuss ground rules with your child before the party.
  • Encourage your teen to plan the party with a responsible friend so that he or she will have support if problems arise.
  • Brainstorm fun activities for the party.
  • If a guest brings alcohol into your house, ask him or her to leave.
  • Serve plenty of snacks and no-alcoholic drinks.
  • Be visible and available – but don’t join the party!

Could my child develop a drinking problem?

  • Begin using alcohol or other drugs before the age of 15.
  • Have a parent who is a problem drinker or an alcoholic.
  • Have close friends who use alcohol and/or other drugs.
  • Have been aggressive, antisocial, or hard to control from an early age.
  • Have experienced childhood abuse and/or other major traumas.
  • Have current behavioral problems and/or are failing at school.
  • Have parents who do not support them, do not communicate openly with them, and do not keep track of their behavior or whereabouts.
  • Experience ongoing hostility or rejection from parents and/or harsh, inconsistent discipline.

Warning signs of a drinking problem

• Mood changes: flare-ups of temper, irritability, and defensiveness.
• School problems: poor attendance, low grades, and/or recent disciplinary action.
• Rebelling against family rules.
• Switching friends, along with a reluctance to have you get to know the new friends.
• A “nothing matters” attitude: sloppy appearance, a lack of involvement in former interests, and general low energy.
• Finding alcohol in your child’s room or backpack, or smelling alcohol on his or her breath.
• Physical or mental problems: memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, or slurred speech.

Action Checklist

• Establish a loving, trusting relationship with your child.
• Make it easy for your teen to talk honestly with you.
• Talk with your child about alcohol facts, reasons not to drink, and ways to avoid drinking in difficult situations.
• Keep tabs on your young teen’s activities, and join with other parents in making common policies about teen alcohol use.
• Develop family rules about teen drinking and establish consequences.
• Set a good example regarding your own alcohol use and your response to teen drinking.
• Know whether your child is at high risk for a drinking problem; if so, take steps to lessen that risk.
• Know the warning signs of a teen drinking problem and act promptly to get help for your child.
• Believe in your own power to help your child avoid alcohol use.