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Kids Are Drinking Alcohol, But Parents Aren’t Talking to Them

Nearly one quarter of tweens have reported consuming alcohol at least once by the eighth grade. That’s a lot of kids drinking alcohol! Yet, only 41 percent of parents have begun conversations with their kids about alcohol by the time they’re 14, finds a study conducted by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.

A Conversation About Kids and Drinking Alcohol that Cannot Wait

So why do parents hold off on discussing alcohol? Many parents think their kids are too young. But if you’re waiting until your teens are invited to their first high school party to talk about the dangers of alcohol, you might be too late.

There’s also no need to wait until kids ask about alcohol or until it comes up in the media. Instead, just begin the conversation yourself. For example, ask whether kids at school talk about alcohol. Or ask why they think some people drink alcohol and some don’t.

The study found that when parents do talk to their kids about drinking, they are most likely to talk about risks like alcohol poisoning and accidents. Don’t forget brain health, though—underage drinking, especially binge drinking, has been found to cause brain damage that affects thinking and memory skills.

“Ask teens what they have learned about the brain while in school. Use that as a starting point. Discuss the effects that mood- and mind-altering substances can have on their growth and development,” recommends Michelle Sproule, licensed associate counselor at Scottsdale Recovery Center.

Another way to introduce conversations about the risks of alcohol and brain development is by asking teens about what they want for the future, suggests Ashley Hampton, a licensed psychologist and former school counselor. “Focus on how choices they make now, such as drinking, can impact their future achievement.”

No matter how the conversation comes up, it’s never too early to talk to your kids about the dangers of alcohol.

Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, and mom of three teen boys. Read more about Cathie at

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