It’s important to talk to your child about drinking so that they understand the dangers involved. Drinking alcohol means taking on responsibilities that your child may or may not be ready for yet. It’s important to set the groundwork while they are young that they can come to you to discuss anything without judgment. As they turn into middle schoolers, it’s probably best to go ahead and have conversations specifically about alcohol. A high schooler is old enough to have tough conversations, especially once they start driving. And of course, it’s very helpful to discuss drinking with any teen who is about to head to college. Hopefully, they’ll feel comfortable trusting you and talking to you about drinking.

When to Talk to Your Child About Drinking: A Tough But Necessary Conversation

Setting the Stage Young

While you don’t need to sit down and talk to your child about drinking when they’re a toddler, it’s never too early to open the lines of communication. By truly listening when your toddler or young child is scared or having doubts, you’ll establish yourself as somebody they can trust. Your children need to know that you are somebody they can turn to with anything, even if they know it might land them in trouble.

Your Middle Schooler

As your child gets older, it’s more important to specifically introduce the dangers of underage drinking to them. They may have programs in school that address drinking beginning as early as middle school. It’s probably a good idea to talk to your child about drinking around this time. As sad as it is, even children as young as middle school are exposed to alcohol by their peers.

Your High Schooler

It’s important to talk to your child about drinking as they go into high school. They’ll likely have more freedom and independence. And of course, more opportunities to drink as well. As they begin driving it’s especially important to make sure they understand the dangers of driving under the influence or riding with somebody intoxicated. Approach the conversation as if it’s a discussion and not a lecture. Let them know that they can always come to you if they are in a situation that makes them uncomfortable.

Your College-Bound Teen

Finally, it’s important to continue to talk to your child about drinking as they enter college. For the first time in their life, they may be living on their own and away from your watchful eye. Many teens take this opportunity to go a little crazy with alcohol. If you’ve set the tone early in your relationship that they can talk to you about drinking, hopefully, they’ll be less likely to overindulge at parties.

It’s important to talk to your child about drinking throughout their entire life. Open the lines of communication early when your child is in elementary school and establish yourself as a source of comfort. As they get older, keep the lines open and let them know that they can always come to you with questions or problems. Children as young as middle schoolers might get peer pressure to drink. High schoolers especially need to learn about drinking responsibly, especially when they begin driving. And teens entering college need a refresher about how to stay safe at parties. Make sure that your children know that they can come to you with any concerns they have, even if the conversation is a difficult one.