When parents take the time to have frequent and meaningful conversations with their kids, it builds trust and strengthens relationships. Kids who feel close to their parents are much more likely to listen when their parents set clear rules to protect their health and safety.
Know the facts
Kids have a lot of questions. Make sure you’re prepared to answer them—especially those that relate to keeping their developing brains free from the harms of alcohol. Talk to them about their hopes and dreams and how their healthy brain will support them in a successful future. Use age-appropriate language and ask questions to make sure kids understand. Use the Learn More link to get all the information you need.Learn More
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends talking to kids about underage drinking as early as age 9.1 Research shows kids are making up their minds about alcohol between the ages of 9 to 13 and those perceptions can become more favorable as they mature. And if they view it as pleasurable, they’re much more likely to drink underage.2 If your child is older, it’s never too late to start the discussion.
Have small chats
Having little talks together, over time, takes the pressure off of trying to get all the information out at once. Your kids will also be less likely to tune you out. Use everyday situations, such as meals, driving in the car and doing activities together, to start ongoing conversations about underage drinking. Keep it casual and informal. The more it becomes a regular topic, the more natural it will be, for both of you.Learn More
Ask questions and role play
Ask open-ended questions, rather than tell. A two-sided conversation allows you to get your point across, while empowering your children to be part of the solution.
Then, after your child shares their answers to your questions, try role playing through potential solutions. For some examples of open-ended questions, download the PDF.Download PDF
Even the slightest amount of perceived parental acceptability can lead to substance use. A Utah study shows when kids believe their parents feel underage drinking is “very wrong,” only 3% actually drink. But if kids believe their parents feel it’s just “wrong” or “a little wrong,” almost half choose to drink. 3 Make your expectations about not drinking alcohol before age 21 clear.
In it together and committed
Ensure that you and your spouse or partner are on the same page about your rules. When parents agree, kids stay alcohol-free. Brainstorm and practice refusal skills with your child. Reinforce that the best way to prevent underage drinking is to avoid places where alcohol is present. Ask your child for a personal commitment to live by the rules and continue to discuss them regularly. To learn more, visit SAMHSA’s Talk. They Hear You.
Parenting tops peer pressure
In fact, that’s why it’s so important to remain involved. Most children naturally become more independent as they mature. It’s a normal part of development. Yet parental involvement drops by half between the 6th and 12th grades when kids need their parents’ help most to stay alcohol-free.4 While parents may feel their kids are no longer listening to their advice, their kids are reporting just the opposite. Parents are the No. 1 influence in their child’s life and in their decisions regarding alcohol, too.5
Protect your kid’s healthy brain
The harms of alcohol on developing brains, and the negative effects that underage drinking has on a child’s mental, emotional and physical health are well established.6 There are no safe amounts of underage drinking. Talk together about the benefits of protecting their healthy brains to ensure their bright futures.Learn More
Set clear “no-alcohol” rules
Never assume your children know your rules and expectations. Write down your family’s rules about underage drinking and review them regularly. If parents set clear rules, the likelihood a child will drink drops by almost half.7
Have a plan
Keeping your kids in an alcohol-free social environment is essential. Help them know what to do if they are somewhere with alcohol present. Practice refusal skills with your child. Let your children know they can text or call if there’s alcohol, and you’ll pick them up. You can even set up a code word so you’ll know to come get them. Watch this video for more tips on setting effective boundaries.
Please do not provide alcohol
Surprising but true, nearly half of Utah’s underage drinking happens at home. Forty-four percent of Utah kids who drank in the last year did so at home with their parents’ permission.8 While parents may think they’re keeping their kids in a safe environment, drinking at home doesn’t prevent the harm to developing brains or potential addiction. In addition, children who get alcohol from parents have double the likelihood of binge drinking when unsupervised.9
The closer your relationship with your child, the more powerful and helpful your influence will be. A little family fun goes a long way.Learn More
All kids need their parents’ help to stay alcohol-free. Stay involved in the details of their day-to-day lives. Here’s how to do it.Learn More
Protecting your child’s healthy brain
An adolescent brain is still developing and is the single greatest resource for a child’s bright future.Learn More
3 Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention [SHARP] Survey, 2019.
5 Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention [SHARP] Survey, 2019.
6 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010. 2nd ed. With Understanding and Improving Health and Objectives for Improving Health. 2 vols. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, November 2000. P. 26-20.
7 Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention [SHARP] Survey, 2019.
8 Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention [SHARP] Survey, 2019.
9 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4108600/ and Foley KL, Altman D, Durant RH, Wolfson M. Adults’ approval and adolescents’ alcohol use. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2004;35:345.e317–345.e326.