The Conversation: What to expect

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” – Mark Twain

Teenagers will often resist your efforts to discuss the topic of alcohol with them; however, research indicates that teenagers list their parents as their most trusted resource when they are faced with difficult decisions. Recognizing that this might be one of the most difficult conversations you will have with your son/daughter, below are some items to keep in mind as you have the conversation:

  • Convey that you care about and love your child
  • Express that you want to understand and help your child
  • Be willing to back off if your child resists and try another time. Your willingness to back off shows that you are respectful of your child and their privacy.

Your teen will react to discussing alcohol in various ways; here are some possible reactions:

  • Suspicion about your sudden interest in the topic
  • Doubts that you will understand/respect them
  • Fear of hearing a lecture
  • Indifference or lack of concern
  • Anger for invasion of their privacy

A conversation with your teen about alcohol may always be difficult – but the more you talk with them, the easier it will become.

What to say

While having these conversations with your teen, it is important to share accurate information.

  • Inform them. Talk about the risks associated with underage drinking such as:
    • Accidents or injuries
    • Increased chance of sexual assault
    • Reduced academic achievement
    • Relationship issues
    • Negative impact on the body (e.g. weight gain, blackouts, hangovers, lower inhibitions)
  • Empower your child. Talk to your teen about how to stand up for their beliefs and decisions, empower them to take a stand when someone is pressuring them to make high-risk choices. Discuss what they would do if such a situation presented itself and where to go for help.
  • Be open and firm about:
    • Family consequences if caught using. Be clear on what consequences your teen will face and think about setting up a ‘behavior contract’.
    • School consequences
    • Legal consequences and cost
  • Convey your willingness to help. This is a great time for you to express your love and concern for your child. Express your desire to help if they are struggling with something or find themselves in a difficult situation.

The Conversation: Continuous and Consistent

  • Try to ask questions instead of lecture.
  • Set CLEAR expectations for your teen regarding alcohol use and hold them accountable to those expectations.
  • Continue having the conversation, everything doesn’t have to be discussed in a single setting.
  • Be a role model – set an example of appropriate drinking behavior in your own life. Sharing stories about your own drinking can send a mixed message to your teen.
  • For specific examples on how to respond to your teen’s resistance or tough questions, sign-up for tips via email.


Your daughter asks to go to a party. You have heard that alcohol will be involved.

What to Say
"No, you can't go. You know my expectations for you about drinking. I will not allow you to go to a place where alcohol is available."

Weed is safer than drinking alcohol.

What to Say
"Whether it’s smoking pot, cigarettes, drinking or behaving recklessly, I honestly don’t want you doing anything that can harm you. What is going on in your life that makes you feel like you want to use drugs or alcohol?."

Marijuana comes from a plant, so how harmful could it be?

What to Say
"Cocaine and heroin come from plants, and poison ivy is a plant as well, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy or good for you. Using marijuana can affect your judgment and be harmful. Tell me about the activities that you and your friends like to do that don’t involve using drugs."

Suggestions for parents on how to communicate with their children via text messages

  • Hope UR having fun. Stay smart. Luv u
  • Be ur self. Be safe
  • I’m lucky ur my kid. Luv u
  • Thx for being so great. Have fun. Stay safe
  • If u need me – call me
  • Remember, I trust u. Love ya
  • Remember our talk. Love u and have fun.
  • Be careful and have fun.
  • Let me know where u r when u have a min. thx
  • Give me a call when u get a chance. Luv u
  • I’m always here if u need to talk.
  • Luv u.

Looking for guidance on setting rules for your child’s cell phone? This is where the Family Cell Phone Contract comes in handy. It’s about setting clear rules and expectations for the privilege of owning or having access to a cell phone. Adjust it to fit your family needs and post it somewhere visible as a reminder of what has been agreed upon by both parties.