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Research shows that kids who feel close to their parents are less likely to drink. It’s healthy for tweens and teens to exert independence. But even as they begin to spend more time with their friends and less time with you, it’s important that you stay engaged.
Create a healthy home environment.
- Eat dinner together at least 3 or 4 times a week—without TVs and phones. Teens who ate dinner with their families less than twice a week were twice as likely to use alcohol as those whose families ate together five times a week.9
- Keep up your efforts to “get to know” your child. Ask open-ended questions about school and friends, and try these fun conversation starters at the dinner table.
- Spend at least 15 minutes of one-on-one time with your child each day, whether you’re talking about their favorite bands on the way to soccer practice or helping them with homework.
- Engage in family time on weekends, and make sure your teen is there. Try simple activities like taking a bike ride or hike, playing board games, joining them in a favorite activity, or even planting a garden or volunteering at a local non-profit or event.
Get your child involved in worthwhile activities.
- Help your child discover and develop their talents from a young age by enrolling them in sports, music, the arts, or other activities. (Get some ideas with this directory of Idaho activities.)
- If your kids have a passion, they’ll be more likely to spend time doing what they love instead of using drugs or alcohol.
- The confidence your child gains from participating in regular extracurricular activities goes a long way towards resisting peer pressure.
- But there’s a caveat, of course: According to MADD, involvement in sports teams helps reduce alcohol usage among middle school students, but may lead to an increase during high school, which is why it’s important to continue talking to your child and monitoring their activities.
Create alcohol-free fun for your kids and their friends.
- Depending on your child’s age, take them and a friend to a dollar movie, go-karting, or mini-golfing, or invite their friends over for a Redbox and movie snacks.
- Help your child host a game night—board games and video games—with prizes (they don’t have to be expensive!).
- Have your child’s friends over for dodge ball or volleyball in your backyard or your neighborhood park, then serve up a post-game barbecue.
- For a tween or teen girl, have your daughter host a spa night with manicures, girl movies, and music.
- Take your child and a friend camping where they can swim and play horseshoes.
Idaho Out-of-School Network’s program directory. Use this directory to find activities and afterschool care for your child.
The Solution from ParentsEmpowered.org
Real Kids are Curious about Alcohol: A Family Guide to Underage Drinking Prevention (See the What You Need to Do section)
The Importance of Family Dinners VIII by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University
6 Parenting Practices to Reduce the Chances Your Child Will Develop a Drug or Alcohol Problem from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Conversation Jar from ParentsEmpowered.org
Try these fun Convo Cards
Is your t(w)een becoming more independent? Spending more time with friends or retreating to their room for solo time? Not talking as much? This is totally normal—but we want to make it easier to maintain a close relationship during these tricky pre-teen and teen years. That’s why we’re introducing Convo Cards, a game you can play at the dinner table, in the car, on vacation, or anytime. The idea is to initiate fun conversations and “get to know” each other better. Email us for your FREE deck today!
Take the 30-Day Parenting Challenge!
Did you know that kids who feel close to their parents are less likely to drink underage? Staying engaged—ideally spending at least 15 minutes of one-on-one time together each day—helps ensure your child will feel comfortable talking to you about the challenges they face as they become more independent. Keep this list on your fridge and try to complete all 30 activities with your child. You can download a printable PDF here.