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START THE CONVERSATION

WHEN TO TALK

Have conversations frequently—and find good times and places to have them.

Have lots of little talks instead of one big one.

Having lots of little talks takes the pressure off trying to get all of the information out in one big discussion, and your child will be less likely to tune you out.

Choose informal times, such as in the car, during dinner, or while watching TV.

Talking while you’re doing another activity takes the pressure off the conversation, so it’s easier to segue into the talk.

Continue to talk to them throughout adolescence.

Since the pressure to try drugs and alcohol increases as children enter junior high and high school, it’s important to continue these talks with your child as they get older.

Encourage your child to talk to you.

Tell your child that if they ever has any questions or needs advice, they can always come to you.

HOW TO TALK

Be real with them—make your feelings known and create rules you can enforce.

Express your concerns.

Voice your opinions and beliefs about underage drinking and drugs to your child. Avoid using scare tactics, and remember it’s a conversation, not an argument.

Develop family rules.

As you and your partner decide on rules and boundaries, have your child with you. Explain to them what the laws are about underage drinking and drug abuse, what your household rules are, and what behavior you expect. Be consistent, and remember to review your rules with them on a regular basis.

Renegotiate the rules as they get older.

The rules you set in place now might need to change as your child gets older and has more freedom. It’s important to remember that these rules need to be reexamined on a regular basis, say, every six months.

Teach them the dangers of drinking and driving.

As your child approaches driving age, warn them about the risks associated with driving under the influence. Find out what the penalties are in your area, and share them with your child. Remind them to never get in a car with a friend or adult who is under the influence.

Let them know you’re always there for them.

Make sure your child knows that no matter what happens, you will be there for them. Tell them that their safety is your main concern, and if that involves your going out at midnight to pick them up from a party that has gone wrong—you will do it, no questions asked.

OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO

Be mindful of the things you, friends, and family members can do besides talking.

Be a good role model.

If you choose to drink, set a good example for your child by drinking in moderation and monitoring what you say about alcohol. Remember that your actions and behaviors have a direct impact on their opinions.

Be aware of where you keep your alcohol or prescription medication.

If you keep alcohol or prescription medication in the house, keep it locked up or in a discreet place, and remind your child that it’s off-limits.

Encourage healthy alternatives to drinking and drugs.

Help your child stay busy by encouraging them to participate in after-school and weekend activities that are challenging and fun.

Monitor their activities.

Keep track of where your child is and whom they are with. If they go to a friend’s house, make sure there is always a responsible adult present and that they have a way to check in with you on a regular basis.

Promote a healthy lifestyle.

In addition to speaking with them about underage drinking and drug abuse, encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle by not smoking, getting enough exercise and eating a balanced diet.

Talk to others.

No matter how close you and your child are, you can still enlist the support of family and friends to help keep them from drinking and doing drugs. Ask the people in your child’s life to be positive role models and to respect your rules and beliefs.