Need some help figuring out how to talk to your child about underage drinking? Wondering how the conversation will play out?
Start the Talk, is a new interactive online tool that helps parents practice tough conversations about underage drinking with their kids in a videogame-like environment.
It is part of the Talk. They Hear You. campaign launched last spring from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which gives parents and caregivers information and tools to start talking to children — as early as 9 years old — about the dangers of alcohol. Research has shown that children start to think differently about alcohol between the ages of 9 and 13, and many children begin to think underage drinking is OK.
The interactive tool lets you role play a 10 to 15 minute conversation between a parent and teen. Parents can practice bringing up the topic of alcohol, learn what questions to ask, get an idea of how a teen might feel during a conversation about drinking, and equip the teen with skills to get out of situations where others are drinking. To make it more realistic, the parent also has to compete with the teen getting text messages during the conversation.
For example, you can pick a conversation starter like, “As you get older, more kids in your grade might be drinking. What do you think about that?” The online tool also coaches you along the way if your line of questioning makes the teen feel defensive or uncomfortable.
As you’re talking to the teen, you can check on how well you’re achieving these goals in the conversation:
- Discouraging drinking
- Showing you care
- Showing you’re a source of information
- Showing you’ll know if your child has been drinking
- Helping your child build skills to avoid alcohol
“Ongoing, open, and calm conversations between children and their parents and caregivers are important to preventing underage alcohol use,” said Frances M. Harding, Director of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention in a written statement. “Even when children seem like they aren’t listening, they really do hear us.”
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