Newsroom > DHHS News Release

April 15, 2010

Jeanne Atkinson, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-8287

Small Conversations About Not Drinking Can Make a Big Impression on Children

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Note: A sound bite is available at:

Lincoln – Helping your children say "no" to peer pressure is one of the most important things you can do to keep them alcohol-free, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

“Kids are curious about alcohol, and studies show that 40 per cent will try it by the time they reach 8th grade,” said Scot Adams, director of the DHHS Division of Behavioral Health. “Talk early and talk often to your children about drinking. It’s the first step toward keeping them alcohol-free. Over 70% of children say parents are the leading influence in their decision to drink or not.”

Between the ages of 9 and 13, children start to think differently about alcohol. Many begin to think underage drinking is OK and some even start to experiment.

Adams offered these suggestions for talking to your children:

Short, frequent discussions can have a real impact on your child's decisions about alcohol. It’s never too early to talk to your children about alcohol and to encourage them to talk to you, especially through adolescence. The pressure to try alcohol increases during junior high and high school.

Talking often builds an open, trusting relationship with your child. Children are more likely to avoid drinking when they have a strong, trusting relationship with their parents. Chatting with your child every day makes it easier to have serious conversations about things like alcohol.

Lots of little talks are more effective than one "big talk." Sitting down for the "big talk" about alcohol can be intimidating for everyone. Use everyday opportunities to talk – in the car, during dinner, or while watching TV. If you have lots of little talks, your child will be less likely to tune you out.

When you do talk about alcohol, make your views and rules clear. Take time to discuss your beliefs and use a clear, consistent message that underage drinking is unacceptable. When children feel you're being honest with them, they'll be more likely to respect your rules about underage drinking.

As children get older, the conversation changes. What you say to a nine-year-old about alcohol is different from what you say to a 15-year-old.

Remember that the conversation goes both ways. Children who can ask questions and have parents who listen to their feelings and concerns are more likely to say "no" to alcohol.