I remember going to a party in high school where there were no parents and a big keg of beer. A boy offered me a freshly-topped up red cup, but one of my close friends said to him, “She doesn’t want that. We’re good with soda.”
I was fully prepared to say a simple, “no, thanks,” but I was very grateful my friend had my back. She knew from our discussions before the party that I did not want to drink.
We’d been taught in school assemblies to “Just Say No,” but real life wasn’t as easy as that. I’m happy to work with AskListenLearn.org again to write about talking to your kids about alcohol. Here’s what worked for me, and what I’ve talked about with my own children who are ages 16 to 25.
Tools for Fending off Peer Pressure to Drink
Acknowledge that it’s just not as easy as just saying no.
That’s glib advice that needs to be backed up with actual techniques.
Peer pressure to drink can be harder to resist than any high-pressure sales technique. It doesn’t always come from the “bad” kid. The strongest pressure can come from her best friend, romantic interest, sports teammates, or that cute girl he want to impress.
Talk with your child about why the reasons not to drink should be stronger than the desire to fit in or go with the flow.
Know the reasons why drinking is not right for their lives.
For me, I’m just a rule follower and cared about not disappointing my parents. Those were reasons enough to keep me from ever getting too comfortable drinking at parties.
Your child probably has reasons why drinking is bad for the plans they are making for their lives. Talk with them about their goals for school, sports, fitness, and hobbies so they have reasons that are important to them when the time comes to turn down alcohol.
Yes, it’s illegal, but the knowledge that drinking might hurt their grades or sports performance is less abstract and therefore more powerful.
There is science available about how alcohol affects the developing brain—which is why Ask Listen Learn made the new courses for both parents and teachers. (Check them both out if you homeschool to see which one works better for you.) The human brain continues to grow and mature until about 25. Teaching kids the science behind the “NO” may also resonate better than anything else!
Maintain strong channels of communication.
Develop a relationship of trust with your child so that you are a safe place for them to come with their issues, questions, and concerns. Certainly with smart phones and access to the Internet, your kid can access all the health information in the world, but they still need their parents for guidance and discussing the real struggles they face.
Ask your child who she trust to talk to for advice about big issues like drinking. If it’s not you, find out the reasons why. Is he afraid of how you’ll react? That gives you a starting point for making sure she feels like she can trust you and come to you with problems.
If you need help staring the conversation about reasons not to drink alcohol, Ask Listen and Learn has a wealth of materials available for parents.
Use the power of positive peer pressure.
If your child ever leaves your house, they have an opportunity to drink. If your child has the nicest, most clean-cut friends in the world, they still might be encouraged to drink. Don’t count on any of their friends to be the good influence that keeps your kid from saying yes.
Still, encourage her to make plans with her friends in advance, like I did with mine. Even when I was old enough to drink legally, my friends and I would make plans ahead of parties. When you don’t have a plan, anything can happen.
Supportive friends and a plan can help, but when it comes to reasons why not to drink alcohol, your child needs to be the one who decides to say no for herself.
Help him with techniques for saying no, brainstorms reasons why it’s detrimental for her goals, be the person they can talk to if he messes up, and understand that good friends can help, but aren’t the ones responsible for your child’s choices.
Ultimately, your child has to be the one who doesn’t want to start drinking underage.
You may also like my previous posts about alcohol education:
and Helping her say no.