When to Talk to Your Kids About Alcohol

Thank you Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for sponsoring this post. Learn more about how you can prevent underage drinking at KnowWhenKnowHow.org.


When I was pregnant with my first child, the thing I worried most about was “Can I do this parenting thing?” Even when we left the hospital, I couldn’t believe they were just letting us leave with this little human. Did I know what I was doing? Not totally but you just do it.

We got through the infant stage and the toddler stage. We sent them off to elementary school. And now, there are a whole new set of worries.

The one thing I have learned in the past 9 years of being a parent is that our kids pick up on everything. The highs. The lows. The ups. The downs. Even when you think they don’t know what is going on, they absolutely do. It’s true when they say that kids are sponges and soak up everything around them.

And that is what has me worried the most at this stage of parenting. My oldest son looks up to his father, like most boys do at this age. His dad is his best friend and idol. He looks up to him on the baseball field and at home. He sees all the things that my husband does for the kids (both his own and his team) and our community. I’ve noticed that he is even picking up on my husband’s sense of humor and has developed a similar style of his own.

This age is so crucial. What my son picks up on and learns at this stage of his life will help shape the man he grows up to be. It’s also the age (ages 8-11) where kids are most receptive to parents’ input. They care about what their parents think about things and, more importantly, what their parents think about them.  So we have to use this to our advantage when talking to him about important things, like alcohol.

One of the things that I haven’t even begun to think about is talking to my son about alcohol. Sure, he knows what it is. That it’s for grown-ups. But we haven’t really sat down and had a talk. I’m not sure why we haven’t done that yet. But this is the time to do it! 1-in-3 kids have tried alcohol before age 8. Before 8! Exposure and first experiences are starting earlier and earlier, so even if you keep the alcohol in your home secure, the same may not be the case at the homes of your kids’ friends.

Conversations about alcohol should start early and often, and don’t have to be one big intimidating “talk.” Most parents I know are worried about drugs and bullying and talk to their kids about that early but skip over drinking alcohol.  Underage drinking – even just a sip or on special occasions – is illegal and often opens the door to other risky behaviors. Parents can serve as responsible role models for their children, using everyday opportunities and circumstances to discuss the risks and consequences of underage drinking.

That’s where the Know When. Know How. campaign comes in. The campaign is a statewide, research-based education and prevention effort targeted to Pennsylvania parents of children ages 8 through 12. The objective of the campaign is to prevent underage drinking by providing information and tools for parents so they can engage their children in discussion before trial or use of alcohol even begins.

Underage drinking is a serious problem across the U.S. Research shows that 80 percent of children feel that their parents play a major role in their decision to drink or not. Do you see why I worry so much? This is the short period of time we have in their lives where they care about what we think. Soon, they will turn to their friends for approval. Without a sturdy foundation of what is right and what is wrong, it may be easier for them to succumb to peer pressure.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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