How to explain alcoholism to a child

Talk and listen

It’s important that as parents you pay attention to what is happening with your children. Being present for them and encouraging conversation is the first step to establishing a trusting and open relationship. You can teach them about the dangers of alcohol and its effects on their health and emotional well-being. Kids have a choice whether to drink or not. Actively discouraging drinking before they’re even in that situation can have a positive impact on them and their friends. By setting limits and clear rules about not drinking, you can help them make good decisions.

The more involved you are in your children’s lives, the better the chance of them opening up and sharing with you about what is going on in their lives. By showing that you care and are interested in their well-being, you can help give them the tools to stand up to peer pressure and say no to alcohol.

Using a news story that includes the effects of drinking can be a great way to broach the subject. Your kids can discuss how they feel about the situation, and it can open the door to have a meaningful conversation about the adverse impact drinking can have in many of life’s situations.

Other suggestions include:

Teach your kids about the dangers of underage drinking.
Listen to them and respect what they have to say.
Let them know that they have a lot going for them and that alcohol can damage their self respect.
Show that you care about their well-being.
Explain how drinking can lead to embarrassing situations that can hurt their reputation.
Tell them you’re paying attention and will know if they drink.
Know where they are and who they’re with.
Don’t let your kids go to parties where there is alcohol.
Encourage them to be involved in activities that don’t involve drinking.
Remind them that drinking is illegal and can result in run-ins with the law.
Make it clear that you don’t tolerate them drinking.
If you drink yourself, drink responsibly. Set a good example.

It is not safe to allow your child to drink at home. The idea that introducing your child to alcohol in a supervised way will teach them good habits is false. Studies show that children whose parents allow them to drink at home are more likely to abuse alcohol and drink outside the house. 

Get the word out about the dangers of underage drinking. Talk to other parents and get involved. Parents have a great influence.

For more information on how to prevent underage drinking, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
www.pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/adolescentflyer/adolFlyer.htm