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Be REAL: ideas for deeper connections

Believe we are the influence.

When they’re young, it’s easy to see the influence we have on our children. They repeat the things we say, they copy our mannerisms, they dress up in our clothes. But as they get older, they copy their friends and try on other influences to express their own individuality. Yet, research proves that parents still have a significant influence on kids’ decisions about alcohol.* And, if we have a strong relationship, our influence with them grows.

Realize our children need to have a connection with us.

Our children want and need a close relationship with us. We recognize this when they’re younger and less sure of the world. As they become more independent, we may feel left behind. But their need for a deep connection with us hasn’t disappeared; it’s just changed. Our job becomes one of finding new ways to connect, so they always feel supported and our influence is not lost.

Examine our own assumptions and prejudices.

Maybe we think we know what our children are going through, but chances are, we don’t. Kids today are dealing with distractions, temptations and stresses that are unique to their generation. When we set out to have deeper conversations about underage drinking, we should ask ourselves: “Are my own experiences getting in the way? Am I really prepared to listen to my child’s point of view?”

Always be aware of the other influences in our kids’ lives.

As parents, it’s natural to question the influence of our children’s peers, other role models, the media, etc. As competing impacts enter our kids’ lives, we feel our impact diminish. But the surest way to lose influence is to fail to show our children that we can relate to their world. That’s why it’s important for us to get to know their friends – not just who they are, but why they matter to our kids. And, by embracing their concerns and taking them seriously, we encourage our kids to see our advice is based on a genuine understanding.

Listen. All kids (especially teens) have a need to be heard.

As they get older, our children increasingly feel their ideas and opinions deserve consideration. They evaluate our rules, and look to see if we’re basing our advice on an accurate understanding of their thoughts and feelings. If they feel unheard, they are more likely to turn to peers for validation.

*Emmanuel Kuntsche, et al.,“The earlier the more? Differences in the Links Between Age at First Drink and Adolescent Alcohol Use and Related Problems According to Quality of Parent – Child Relationship.” Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs, 2009.

Children are much more likely to learn from parenting modeling if their relationship with the parent is a good one. Children adopt the values of the people they admire, respect and love.

- Dr. Thomas Gordon, Clinical Psychologist

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