Questions from Parents
When Stephen Wallace speaks to parents and other adult influencers, they often have many questions about situations or issues they are experiencing in their own lives. Following the presentations in the SADD Speaker Series, ample time is provided for Stephen to answer numerous questions from the audience, such as these:
Q: My tenth-grade daughter just told me that her best friend went to a party where there was drinking last weekend and apparently tried alcohol. My daughter knows she’s too young for this, but she is wondering how to handle it if she finds herself in the same situation. How can I help her through this dilemma?
A: Your daughter seems to be responsible on most issues. My guess is that she may be unclear about your expectations. Most teens are strongly influenced by their parents when it comes to alcohol and drug use, so just talk to her. Let her know that you are very proud of most of her decisions, and you don’t want to ruin what she has going for her in the future. Don’t be afraid to mess up the relationship you have with her; most likely the conversation will only build on the bond you have with her.
Q: How can I interest my ninth-grade boy in doing something besides partying? He claims there’s nothing to do in our town, but surely that’s not the whole story. Help!
A: Your son probably isn’t partying because there is nothing else to do, but because ninth-grade is a difficult transition period and he wants to fit in. Talk to your son about the activities available in your town, such as going to a mall, movie theater, recreation center, or bowling alley. Encourage your son to get involved with school clubs and activities. Also, if you’re comfortable in doing so, allow your son to host a substance-free party at your house to show that he can have a good time without the alcohol.
Q: What do I do if my child comes home drunk after hanging out with friends? In addition to talking to her about the consequences of her actions, what else can I do?
A: If your daughter is drinking alcohol, she is clearly making decisions that both threaten her health and safety, and cause you great worry. Reinforce the behaviors that you do want to see before tackling those you don’t. Even if she has already heard from you about the many dangers associated with underage drinking, keep reminding her! You may also want to focus on the unpleasant social outcomes that may come with alcohol use. Qualitative research from SADD suggests that teens really key in on the relationship risks of drinking, such as saying something to a friend they don’t mean, doing something embarrassing they will regret, or throwing up on someone.
Q: Last year we hosted a party for our son who graduated from high school. We invited his friends as well as some of our own. The adults were drinking, and later we discovered that the kids helped themselves to our beer stash in the basement. I’m now thinking we adults probably should not have been drinking at the kids’ party; we set the wrong kind of example. What do you think?
A: I think you know exactly what was wrong in this situation. Kids are highly influenced by their parents’ actions, and by allowing the adults to drink you weren’t setting the right example. Tell your son that you messed up by having alcohol at the party, but you are also disappointed that the kids helped themselves to it. Let him know that drinking is OK when done responsibly and legally once 21, but until then it’s simply too dangerous.
Q: When I was young, the drinking age was 18 and, yes, our group did experiment. Unfortunately, my 15-year-old son is all too aware of this, and he brings it up all the time. How can I impress upon him that what we used to do was a mistake, the drinking age has changed for a reason, and now we know a lot more reasons why teens shouldn’t drink?
A: Even adolescents tend to be very “black and white” when it comes to issues regarding personal behavior: “If you did it when you were in high school, why can’t I do it?” is a common refrain heard by parents everywhere. I think you are quite right to point out the change in the law and, more important, the reasons behind it. Let’s face it: although it may be tough work, our job is to keep our kids safe. Period. And the good news is that kids tend to understand that. When we avoid preaching and moralizing and focus our conversation on our concern for their safety, we are more likely to find receptive ears on the other side of the dinner table.