Yes, parenting is a difficult challenge. One has to strike a fine balance between setting discipline as well as cultivating independent decision-making. One has to be loving as well as firmly set clear rules over important things.
With rising peer pressure, it can be difficult to convince your children on why to stay away from addictive poisons. Here are some guidelines that will make this difficult job easier.
1) Start the conversation early before the age of experimentation. Once they start taking alcohol or once they form their views about alcohol listening to industry propaganda and peers, they will be less receptive.
2) Discuss the issue intermittently. The industry keeps bombarding youth with pro-alcohol messages daily. A one-time conversation is unlikely to be able to undo the influence.
3) Encourage them to ask questions and get their doubts clarified. Expecting them to just blindly follow your instructions is unlikely to work when the peer pressure around them to drink is high. They are convinced that it is silly to take this addictive poison is important. Hence be willing to answer all their doubts.
For instance, common objection teens raise is that what is the harm in taking it occasionally to unwind and deal with stress. Few things you can explain are:
Taking alcohol or any addictive substance just makes you forget your stress for some time. It doesn’t solve it in any way. And because you forget it, you ignore working on it and the stressor keeps increasing. Also, because of the negative consequences of drinking alcohol new stressors keep getting added to life.
Eg. A boy drinking to forget the hurt of a breakup is not able to process the loss properly and spends a long time feeling miserable compared to those who face their emotions, cry it out, and can release the hurt. Besides when they drown their life in addiction their performance drops and they decrease the probability of finding another girlfriend also. Thousands of young men and women deal with breakups every year and move on. The ones who seek solace in alcohol are usually the ones who are not able to move on for a long time.
There are so many better ways to unwind and manage one’s stress like sports, music, dance, meditation, exercise, painting, spending time with friends, going for a trek, etc. When one uses alcohol to unwind, it can make him cry and repent in the long run. But when one develops healthy coping strategies he can achieve more in life and becomes happier. Is it a sign of smartness for one to need the crutches of alcohol or tobacco to deal with the challenges of life?
All of us will go through tough times when we will feel overwhelmed. At such times taking the support of a counselor helps far better than trying to drown oneself in alcohol. As parents, you can assure them that they can come to you and share whatever problem they are dealing with. You can promise them that you will try to understand and will help to figure out a solution without becoming judgemental.
As explained in section 1 above, most people want to drink occasionally in control. But because of the addictive nature of alcohol, a significant proportion ends up losing control.
4) Educate yourself well to be able to answer their doubts effectively. There are a lot of online resources and books on the issue. To mention a few online resources:
Harmful Use of Alcohol - A factsheet on alcohol and various resources by WHO to empower people are available on this website.
NIAAA - Website of National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, USA. Has a lot of useful information.
Parents Empowered - Website of Parents empowered campaign.
Talking to your Kids about Alcohol - This article discusses what can be discussed with children depending on their age.
Reasons Why You Shouldn't Drink Alcohol - This short article discusses 10 reasons why one should not drink alcohol
5) Do role-plays on how they will refuse politely but firmly when their friends pressurize them to drink. If they have decided what they are going to say, they will be able to say it confidently. Some statements that can be said are:
"No, thanks. I don’t drink."
"No, thanks. I believe in enjoying life with a clear head and being in control of self.”
“No, thanks. I have promised my parents I will not take alcohol today, and I make a promise I keep it.”
For more details, refer section on Challenge 2
6) Don’t hesitate to set clear rules. A certain amount of discipline is essential for success in life and till teens reach adulthood, parents do have a responsibility to set some structure and discipline. If done with giving explanations, the probability of alienation is low. Also, ensure to spend fun time with teens as well.
7) Ensure they have access to healthy ways of recreation. It's important to also discuss that one can have fun in better ways and that way one becomes more happy, healthy and successful.
8) It is important for parents to be aware of and to convey to their children well dangers of underage drinking. To state a few:
Research says that kids who begin drinking before age 15 have a 40% chance of becoming alcohol-dependent. In contrast, people who started drinking at age 20 or later had only a 10% risk of becoming alcohol dependent.
Underage drinking can cause long-term damage to a teen’s developing brain, impairing memory, learning, judgment, and impulse control. This lead to poor academic grades and professional performance
Teens starting to drink are more likely to develop behavioral disturbances, depression, suicide, binge drinking, engage in drunk driving, violence, etc.
9) To lead by example. Yes, kids are more likely to follow what they see compared to what they hear. It does help a lot to not drink alcohol yourself. If you are unable to quit by yourself, you can seek professional help. Even if you are not able to quit immediately, you can say that you have got trapped and don’t wish for him/her to get trapped.