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Young children are very interested in the grown-up world, so this is an ideal time to start conversation. When the opportunity arises, jump on it, just like if your child was reaching for a match!

  • Keep it simple such as “wine is for grown-ups.” 

  • Model low risk use: 1 or 2 drinks on an occasional basis. Don’t drink and drive.  Watch your words, avoid saying “I need a drink”. 

  • When Uncle “Salvador” asks your daughter to get him a beer, simply say, “alcohol is dangerous for children’s development,” or “we don’t allow Maria to bring us our drinks.” If someone offers her a piece of a marijuana cookie, “marijuana is dangerous for children’s brains, we don’t allow….”)



School–age children are fascinated with their bodies, so weave discussions about alcohol and other drugs into broader conversations about health. “Alcohol can be safe for some adults in small doses but it’s not healthy when our brains are developing”.


  • Keep it about safety: “on a bike we wear a helmet; as a child you never drink alcohol.”  

  • Talk about how alcohol and drugs impact their brains: “alcohol will make your brain not grow the way it’s supposed to.”

  • Model – let your partner take the wheel, if you have been drinking. Point out that you don’t drink and drive. 

  • Don’t give your child “just” a sip – bad taste is not a deterrent: “kids who were given sips were four times as likely to binge-drink later.”

  • Help your kids find answers from reliable sources.  Check out and



Now it is especially important to match your behavior to your words.

  • “A lot of people might not think you are ready for this conversation, but I know you are…  even if you haven’t been offered alcohol or marijuana yet, it is likely to happen in the future.  I’m here to help you be smart about it.”

  • Model – when someone is visiting and you decide to have a drink, offer alternatives to alcohol and avoid saying “I need a drink”. Instead ask, “Shall we have a glass of lemonade or would you rather have a glass of wine?”  Kids get the message that alcohol is your go-to stress reliever. You do not want to model it’s a way to handle anxiety. 

  • If your pre-teen asks why someone in the family does not drink, if they are in recovery, explain that and say “because of genetics, everyone in our family is at higher risk for problems with alcohol and other drugs. It’s very important none of our children drink before their brains are fully developed. It’s like heart disease when people need to eat healthy. Our family needs to be more careful with alcohol and drugs.”


©2020 Tisch, Gardner, Sibley

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