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NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

December 12, 2013


Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Small conversations can make a big impact

By Vicki Turner
DPHHS Prevention Resource Center

Holidays – we are busier than ever before, and planning ahead for the approaching holiday festivities adds additional stress that impacts our routine and rhythm of daily life.  It's not exactly a convenient time for having a serious conversation with your teen about topics such as underage drinking. Some parents might think that battling underage drinking is a futile effort, but studies show that parents who adopt a zero tolerance for underage drinking were the top reason that teens don't drink.

Holiday parties often increase the opportunity to use alcohol and other drugs. Opportunities for underage drinking rise dramatically when students are not in school or structured activities.  Underage drinking is a leading contributor to death from injuries, which are the main cause of death for people under age 21.  The month of December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention month.

To help keep your kids safe and prevent alcohol and drug-related tragedies, here's some advice for parents:

  • Talk to your teen ahead of time and prior to any holiday parties, and be clear in your expectations that they are prohibited from drinking and using illegal substances.
  • Recognize and anticipate that well meaning adults may attempt to "bend the rules" as a treat or gesture of affection. Have ample amounts of non-alcoholic drinks and foods, and dispose of all unfinished beverages so kids are not drinking the leftovers.
  • Be a model for conscientious behavior.  Have a plan for those who drink too much and make sure your guests do not drink and drive.
  • If your child is going to a party at a friend's house, phone ahead and make sure there will not be any alcohol beverages available.

Short, frequent discussions can have a real impact on your child's decisions about alcohol.  Lots of little talks are more effective than one "big talk."

Sitting down for the "big talk" about alcohol can be intimidating for both you and your child. Try using everyday opportunities to talk— in the car, during dinner, running errands and even holiday shopping, or while you and your child are watching TV. Having lots of little talks takes the pressure off trying to get all of the information out in one lengthy discussion, and your child will be less likely to tune you out.

Remember that the conversation goes both ways.  Although talking to your child about your thoughts about alcohol is essential, it's also important to hear their point of view. Give your child the opportunity to ask you questions, and listen to what they have to say. Children who have parents who listen to their feelings and concerns are more likely to say "no" to alcohol.

For more information and resources for tips and strategies on talking with your teen, visit  www.parentpower.mt.gov
Vicki Turner is the director of the Prevention Resource Center for the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Page last updated 12/12/2013