The Solution: Boundaries
Boundaries are the rules and expectations that define what parents expect their children to do or not to do. Unclear rules and expectations leave kids vulnerable to underage drinking. To set clear boundaries:
1. Teach the risks of underage drinking
- Begin talking with your child about not drinking alcohol early in life-preferably before age eight.
- Explain the real risks of underage drinking, asking questions to be sure your child understands.
- Emphasize that alcohol is a dangerous drug for your child's still developing brain. Review the dangers of alcohol often as he or she grows up.
2. Set clear rules and expectations
- Set clear rules about not drinking alcohol while underage, and establish firm consequences for drinking. Make your expectations clear about what your child should do if offered alcohol. For example, "If there is alcohol at a party, call me, and I'll pick you up."
- Emphasize that drinking, possessing or attempting to purchase alcohol is illegal before age 21.
- Discuss with your child situations where he or she might be encouraged to use alcohol. Brainstorm and practice ways to say "no." Reinforce that the best way to prevent underage drinking is to simply avoid places where alcohol is present.
- Ask kids for a personal commitment to live by the rules; then post and review the rules at least monthly.
- Consistently enforce the rules by giving appropriate consequences every time.
3. Help kids to choose friends wisely
- If your child's friends drink, your child is much more likely to drink too. Peers who drink are the single greatest risk factor for underage alcohol use. 10 Encourage your kids to choose friends who support your family values and no-alcohol rules. To learn more about how you can help your children select non-drinking friends, click here to link to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Website.
- Get to know your kids' friends and their parents. Just offering friends a ride to the mall gives you a chance to get to know them.
- Discuss your no-alcohol policy with your kids' friends and their parents. Enlist their support to help keep your kids in an alcohol-free environment.
- If you know your child's friends are drinking, should you talk to their parents? Of course you should. The risks of not saying anything are too high, both to their children and yours.