One of the most important things we can do as parents is teach our children how to live their best life. While the Centsible Life often focuses on the financial aspect I recognize that there are a lot of other factors when it comes to living ‘centsibly.’ Part of making wise financial decisions and living our best life is to teach our kids to make wise choices in life in general.
A huge part of that is making healthy decisions including: eating healthy foods, exercise, having respect for our bodies, and learning healthy moderation habits. These are not just things we model, they’re also things we talk about openly all the time. From the time your kids are young you can instill in them ways to say ‘yes’ to being healthy and living their best life, and ‘no’ to things that would endanger their health and safety.
April is Alcohol Responsibility Month, so that’s why I’m thrilled to share that I have partnered with the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility to share resources and information on my blog, social media profiles, and the blog, AskListenLearn. Look for more content in the coming months, but for today let’s talk about how we can openly communicate with our kids and help them learn to say ‘no’.
How To Create Open Communication With Kids
Creating an open line of communication with your kids is the key to helping them be confident in themselves and able to say ‘no’ when they need to.
Think of your communication as a 24/7/365 store. You’re never closed for the business of communication and teaching your kids that early on is key. Even if they get bored of hearing it tell them you always want to talk to them.
Sometimes your kids will come to you with tough questions or try to start a conversation when you’re otherwise engaged. Whenever possible stop and talk. If you need to circle back be clear about when you can talk-“I’m finishing up some emails, but I’ll come to your room in 15 minutes and we can talk. Sound good?”
Tough Topics Aren’t One-Time Things
In our house talking about tough topics isn’t a one-time thing. Start the conversation about alcohol or other tough topics BEFORE your kids have questions and let them know they can always come to you to discuss it more.
Look For Teachable Moments
You will find yourself with plenty of teachable moments as the years go by. Conversations in our house have been prompted by the following: news stories, rumors at school, TV shows, parental behavior at home, movies, relatives and friends’ behavior, health class at school, and so much more.
Touch Base Around Social Events
Our messages about alcohol and responsibility should be discussed prior to or during events and activities where kids might be exposed to alcohol use or abuse. These may include:
- Social event with family or friends
- Tween and teen parties
- School dances
- Overnight trips including school trips, travel abroad, etc.
- When you order alcohol at a restaurant
- When you purchase alcohol
How To Approach Conversations About Alcohol
There are several approaches to talking about underage drinking. You may use one during one conversation while another time you may use another approach. Or you may even find yourself using several approaches during the course of one conversation.
Stick To The Facts
Knowing the facts about underage drinking and being able to talk about them in an age-appropriate way is a huge help.
Answer Their Tough Questions
When they want to know if you drank underage or what to do when a friend drinks you may find yourself at a loss for how to handle it.
Be Honest…To A Point
You should aim to be honest, but be aware of age appropriate conversations. For instance, an 8 year old can certainly understand that you may have had to learn your limits (like when they eat too much junk food and get a stomachache), but your 15 year old may be ready for a frank discussion and examples about how drinking affected your choices or choices of friends around you.
Resources you can use from Ask Listen Learn:
- When & How To Discuss Alcohol
- How To Start A Conversation
- How Alcohol Affects Your Body
- You’re Only 6 So Why Are We Talking About Champagne
The Importance Of ‘No’
As kids grow up they begin to feel pressure and influence to drink. If your child isn’t confident or doesn’t know what to say they may feel swayed from saying ‘no.’ It’s not just about telling them to say ‘no,’ but helping them understand how to say no.
It may seem silly, but putting yourself in your kid’s shoes may help. Have them be a peer who is asking them to drink and show them how you would say ‘no.’ Then let them try saying ‘no’ to you, too.
Blame It On Mom & Dad:
For some kids and certain situations it may be hard for your kids to say no on their own. Let them know you’re willing to be the one to blame if they don’t feel confident talking about why they don’t want to drink. “My mom and dad would ground me for forever!” “My Mom finds out everything! No way.” It’s a great tool when they are in a group of new friends where they might not feel confident to explain why they say ‘no.’
Say ‘Yes’ To Picking Up Your Kids Anytime
Drinking and driving is a huge concern for teens. If you have a teen at home, even if they know how to say ‘no’ to alcohol you also need to teach them to say ‘no’ to getting in a car after drinking or with a friend who has been drinking. One of the ways my parents instilled this into me was to have a no questions rule. They promised if we were ever in a situation where we needed to be picked up they wouldn’t punish us for calling. Thankfully I was never in a situation where I needed to use this lifeline, but knowing it was available if I had needed it was a huge help.
Model Responsible Behavior
Most importantly whether you’re talking to kids about saying ‘no’ or finding ways to foster open communication kids take in what we’re doing even more than what we say. Modeling moderation and responsible behavior around alcohol should really should be a ‘do as I do and do as I say’ model. For instance, make sure they get the chance to see you saying ‘no’ to a drink especially when it comes to drinking and driving! ‘Sorry, I can’t tonight. I’m driving.’
Resources you can use from Ask Listen Learn:
Do you have advice or tips that help you talk to your kids about alcohol?
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. All opinions are my own.