Parents should start talking with their children about the dangers of drinking as early as age 9, according to a new US campaign. The advice follows research that suggests children start to think more positively about alcohol between ages 9 and 13.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which launched the campaign, says about 10% of 12-year-olds have tried alcohol, and half of 15-year-olds have done so. Many teens listen to their parents’ advice on drinking. In one study, 80% of teens said their parents were the largest influence on their decision whether or not to drink.
The “Talk. They Hear You” campaign includes a toolkit with templates for a parent-child pledge, and scripts for talking with children about sensitive subjects, such as why it’s permissible for parents to drink. Parents are provided with suggested texts they can send, such as, “Have fun tonight. Remember, alcohol can lead you 2 say things and do things u wish u hadn’t.”
The campaign gives parents advice on topics including never serving alcohol to teens at home, and telling teens they shouldn’t drink at parties or get in a car with a driver who has been drinking.
SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said “As our youth and young adults face challenges, we as a community, need to effectively communicate with them in every way possible about the risks of underage drinking so that they have the necessary tools to make healthy and informed choices.”