When is the Right Time to Talk to Your Kids About Alcohol?

We all know that parents have the most important influence on child and family wellness, so it’s not surprising when, time and time again, research shows it. Even though there are other factors involved in your child’s wellbeing, such as peer pressure, you have the largest influence on your child’s attitude towards drinking alcohol.


A 2009 report from US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, for example, showed that teens who talked to their parents about the dangers of substance abuse were ‘less likely than those who did not have such conversations to have been past month users of alcohol (16.2% vs. 18.3%).’ So it’s not a giant leap to make in saying that you are the most important factor in preventing your child from engaging in underage drinking. You need to talk to your children about drinking, and you should start early and speak often.


Again, research proves that this is something you already know. In a recent survey by global market research firm Ipsos, which asked 1,000 adults across 11 different countries about how they are talking with children about drinking, it was shown that the vast majority of respondents believe it’s important for parents to talk with their children about alcohol. Of the parents with kids aged between five and 17, more than 90% in 10 of the 11 countries surveyed agreed with this statement. Still, the study also found that while you may think it’s a good idea to talk to your kids about alcohol, there’s a large gap between believing in it, and actually doing it.


So why is there this disconnect between beliefs and actions? The survey noted the number one reason for not speaking up about drinking was because the parents thought their child was too young to have the conversation. Among the US respondents, for instance, 89% of parents gave this reason. But are we being too sensitive or delicate with our kids? After all, the US surgeon general actually recommends that ‘it’s never too early to start talking with young people about the dangers of underage drinking.’ Other excuses parents gave were that they trusted their children to make the right decision, and that they weren’t sure how to start the conversation.


According to Carol Clark is Global Vice President of Beer & Better World at Anheuser-Busch InBev, ‘To help parents with these conversations, for example, AB InBev launched Family Talk About Drinking, an underage drinking prevention programme developed by experts in the areas of education, counselling and family counselling, more than 20 years ago in the United States. Today, in collaboration with local experts, the programme is now available in 10 countries, in the local languages. Family Talk gives parents resources, from suggested conversation starters to supportive online communities, to help them talk with their children about drinking. There are also similar excellent parent programmes offered by Mothers Against Drunk Driving; the US government; and in our other markets around the world like Brazil and Mexico.’


She adds, ‘It’s also important to acknowledge that parents are not the only solution. The effects of underage drinking impact each one of us, and we are all responsible for helping to address the challenge. We at AB InBev have also pledged to provide ID-checking materials to 500,000 bars, clubs, restaurants and grocery stores worldwide by the end of 2014 to help them prevent sales to minors. We have also committed to training at least 1 million bartenders, waiters and others around the world who serve and sell our beers on responsible alcohol beverage sales.’

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