Young children look up to their parents and will listen to what you say. With teenagers, it’s natural and normal for them to pull away and make their friends their focus. What their peers think or believe becomes more important to them. However, what you think feel about them remains central to their lives. They still look for your approval as well as your love, however disdainful they may seem of your opinion.
Your children may say you don’t understand or know anything… but young people still pay attention to what you say and how you feel1. But you need to earn their respect: the more you admit when you don’t know something, the more you listen to them, the more you offer praise when they get it right rather than criticism when they get it wrong, the more likely it will be that they come to you for advice and take it.
There are plenty of people out there who will answer their questions about alcohol or listen to them if you don’t. The problem is that they may be friends who have as confused and inaccurate an idea as they do. Or there might be websites or people on the internet who could lead them astray.
Saying nothing or evading the issue does not mean the questions go away, just that they go elsewhere
Underage drinking really can have an impact on the rest of your child’s lives. It’s never too early to talk about alcohol but it’s also never too late. Even if they have tried alcohol, you can still help them to stop drinking. They need to hear you say you love them and that this is not about you being a killjoy. It’s about your care for them, your desire for them to reach their full potential and be happy.
It’s not about ‘having the talk’ because it’s not a one-off lecture. It’s about building the habit of listening to each other and sharing thoughts and opinions, about negotiating and compromising.
When children feel they can come to you about anything and you’ll listen with respect and answer to the best of your ability they’ll stay close and come to you more often
If your children haven’t asked you about alcohol it might be because they haven’t got questions. But it’s just as likely that they’ve already assumed this is not something you feel comfortable talking about. Don’t forget they learn about alcohol from so many places – if not you then the media, friends, family. They have the questions – they need you to make it clear you will answer them