During these years, youth are beginning to be presented with opportunities to make choices about alcohol use and underage drinking. This is why it is imperative for parents, especially those who haven’t already, to start talking to their kids about making good decisions, peer pressure, and how to say no/remove themselves from situations.
This is a period of slowed physical growth when typically a lot of energy goes into learning. Children 10-12 years old love to learn facts, especially the strange ones, and they want to know how things work and what sources of information are available to them. Subjects such as alcohol, underage drinking and drug use often peak their curiosity.
Friends, a single best friend, or a group of friends become very important and influential. What children at this age are interested in or will be committed to will often be determined by what "the group" thinks. A child’s self-image is determined in part by the extent to which peers, especially popular peers, accept them.
This age is perhaps the most important time for parents to focus on prevention. These later elementary school years are crucial to future decisions about the use of alcohol and other drugs. Research shows the earlier children begin to use alcohol and other drugs, the more likely they are to experience consequences, as well as to become addicted.
Your child will need a clear no-use message, factual information and strong motivation to resist pressures to try alcohol and other drugs. Be sure to teach your child to "say no" to peer pressure and discuss the importance of thinking and acting as an individual, especially when it comes to alcohol and drug use, driving after alcohol or drug use, or riding in a vehicle with someone who has consumed alcohol or drugs.
Keys to prevention at this age: Modeling healthy behaviors, encourage positive peer relationships, and focus on family communication about values, expectations, and consequences regarding substance use.
Sources: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs, Educational Partnerships and Family Involvement Unit, Tips for Parents on Keeping Children Drug Free, Washington, D.C., 2003.