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Find the right moment

Recognize windows of opportunity

Traditionally, programs designed to prevent underage drinking have advised us to talk with our children at specific ages or moments in their lives. But as we’ve seen through an examination of the parenting stages, children of all ages can benefit from on-going, honest discussions about alcohol. To have meaning, these conversations have to be relevant, and relevance can’t be scheduled.

At various times when we are with our children, there are windows of opportunity to strengthen our parental influence. Sometimes, these windows open predictably, such as right after a school assembly about underage drinking. Sometimes, they open when we least expect them. Perhaps we’re driving home after a holiday party at a relative’s house where an aunt or uncle had too much to drink. Or, there’s a story about alcohol on the news. Or, our son or daughter is invited to his or her first party.

In these come-by-chance moments, our children’s minds are – by the immediate circumstance – most open to a discussion about alcohol. These are the best opportunities to offer guidance and casual advice. If we’re always on the lookout for these teachable moments, our job as parents becomes much easier. Be ready to seize the RIGHT moment.

Follow-up with questions

Even after we’ve begun to have deeper and more meaningful conversations about alcohol, it pays to remember kids have a lot on their minds. We can ensure our advice and expectations are clear by getting in the habit of asking follow-up questions. For younger kids, this can be as simple as “How old do we have to be to drink?” For teenagers and young adults, it may be: “Now, tell me again what you’ll do if your ride home has been drinking?”

Follow-up questions are important for several reasons:

  • They help create accountability.
  • They show you have a genuine concern for the end result.
  • They create new opportunities for communication.
  • They allow us to check in and stay connected, especially with teens.

There are times, many times, when a quiet, loving, reconnection with a child is more effective than a consequence or punishment.

- Holly Bennett and Teresa Pitman, Canadian authors and journalists for Today’s Parent Magazine

We must get over the old way of thinking that in order to make children do better, we must make them feel bad. Just like adults, children who feel encouraged want to do better.

- Dr. Elliott Barker, Forensic Psychiatrist and advocate of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

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