Alcohol is everywhere in our society—on television, in advertisements, even right at the kitchen table. Kids are constantly being exposed to messages about drinking, whether parents and educators talk to them about alcohol or not.
While it’s easy to take a black-and-white stance on drug use, talking about alcohol requires more nuance. After all, it’s a legal substance that can be enjoyed by adults, but it can also be dangerous if abused or used by underage drinkers. Because the issue is so complex, it’s important to have frequent discussions with children about drinking.
Here are 25 ways to talk to kids about alcohol and find out what they think about drinking.
Talking to Elementary-Age Students
Most parents and educators think about alcohol as an issue for teenagers. However, a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 21 percent of kids have their first drink before they turn 13. The same report found that children start thinking positively about alcohol by age 9, so adults in their lives need to start talking about alcohol before then. These questions can help you find out what your students understand about alcohol and how they perceive drinking.
1. Why do you think adults drink alcohol?
2. How does drinking alcohol make adults feel? What does “drunk” mean?
3. Why can’t children drink alcohol?
4. What do you want to know about alcohol?
5. Have you ever seen an adult act silly or scary after drinking alcohol?
Conversation Starters for Middle Schoolers
By middle school, students likely have peers who drink. Kids might focus on the idea that they shouldn’t drink because it’s “bad,” but it’s important to help them comprehend the short- and long-term consequences of drinking. By accessing available resources and asking open-ended questions, you can help your kids understand that alcohol is a depressant that can have long-term risks.
6. Do you know kids who drink alcohol?
7. Have you ever been in a situation that made you feel uncomfortable or gave you butterflies? What did you do?
8. Why do kids your age drink alcohol?
9. Do you think alcohol makes people feel happy or sad?
10. What words come to mind when you see someone with a drink in their hand?
Confronting Peer Pressure
Peer pressure can have a huge influence on kids’ drinking habits. Whether you’re talking to middle or high school students about drinking, getting them to think about peer pressure and how it affects them is important. Check out researched resources and try these five questions to help students think critically about peer pressure in all contexts.
11. When was a time that you said or did something you wouldn’t normally have done because you thought it would make someone else happy?
12. Can peer pressure ever be good?
13. What qualities make you cool, fun to hang out with, or a good friend?
14. Why do you think kids pressure other kids to drink?
15. Have you ever thought about how you would respond if your friends were pressuring you to drink?
Demystifying Binge Drinking
Binge drinking—defined as four drinks a sitting for women and five drinks for men—sounds harsh, but it’s a lot more common than many people (including teens) realize. More than half of teens who drink are heavy drinkers, and 10 percent of high schoolers report drinking 10 or more drinks in a row, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. For many teens, binge drinking is normalized, so it’s important to help students understand what exactly binge drinking is and why it’s harmful. These questions will help you understand how students view binge drinking and clear up their misconceptions.
16. What do you think is a normal amount to drink in a sitting?
17. Is there a purpose in having a drink if you’re not going to get drunk?
18. What is a blackout?
19. How would it make you feel if you were suddenly not fully in control of your body?
20. What sort of risks do you think there are to binge drinking?
Creating Healthy Habits
Many people who abuse alcohol do so to cope with stressors in their lives. Helping students understand that using alcohol as a coping mechanism is unhealthy can help them avoid abuse in the future. These questions will open up conversation about healthy coping mechanisms and addiction.
21. What is alcoholism?
22. What makes you feel better when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed?
23. What do you think of when you hear the word “alcoholic”?
24. How do you unwind at the end of a long day?
25. What signs would make you worried that a friend was drinking too much?
Although talking to kids about alcohol can be tough, open dialogue can help them lay the groundwork for a lifetime of healthy habits.