“For many parents, bringing up the subject of alcohol is no easy matter. Your young teen may try to dodge the discussion, and you yourself may feel unsure about how to proceed. To make the most of your conversation, take some time to think about the issues you want to discuss before you talk with your child. Consider too how your child might react and ways you might respond to your youngster’s questions and feelings. Then choose a time to talk when both you and your child have some “down time” and are feeling relaxed.
You don’t need to cover everything at once. In fact, you’re likely to have a greater impact on your child’s decisions about drinking by having a number of talks about alcohol use throughout his or her adolescence. Think of this talk with your child as the first part of an ongoing conversation.
And remember, do make it a conversation, not a lecture! You might begin by finding out what your child thinks about alcohol and drinking.
Your Child’s Views about Alcohol: Ask your young teen what he or she knows about alcohol and what he or she thinks about teen drinking. Ask your child why he or she thinks kids drink. Listen carefully without interrupting. Not only will this approach help your child to feel heard and respected, but it can serve as a natural “lead-in” to discussing alcohol topics.” (www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov).
Open communication between parent and child is the first step in building a trusting relationship where your child can feel comfortable coming to you about drug or alcohol questions or concerns. To create open communication it is critical that parents are able to use active listening skills. The first step of active listening requires you to stop everything else you are doing and focus all your attention on your child. It is important to look at your child and make eye contact; this will make them aware that they have your attention. While your child is speaking, be sure to keep your full attention on what is being said. Once your child has completed their thoughts, comment on what you heard or rephrase what you think you have heard back to them to be sure you understood them correctly. If your child has asked you a question do not be afraid to answer them to the best of your ability. When answering your child’s questions about drugs or alcohol use be honest and sincere with your children.
A parent who is able to practice active listening successfully will create an environment where their child feels significant enough to have undivided attention. Taking time to discuss important issues with your children is critical, active listening can be used as a tool to help solve current problems as well as a tool to prevent problems in the future. Active listening encourages children to work through their thoughts and learn to problem solve for themselves with the support of their parent.