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Talking to kids about the dangers of underage drinking

Aug 14, 2023, 7:09 PM | Updated: Aug 16, 2023, 6:55 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — With kids heading back to school, doctors say it’s a good time for parents to talk to them about the dangers of alcohol.

Research shows parents are the number one reason kids decide not to drink. If you wait too long, substance abuse experts say kids may have already formed their own opinions. Parents probably need to know they must converse with kids much younger than they think.

Dr. Matt Woolley, a clinical psychologist at the University of Utah, says by 5th grade, parents and caregivers should warn kids about the dangers of drinking.

“If you are 9, 10, 11 years old, and you’re looking at the middle school kids, and you’re thinking what they do is really cool, it looks like they’re having fun,” Woolley said.

He said timing is crucial because research shows kids who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol-dependent during their lifetime. He added it’s essential, to be honest with your kids.

“You wanna say at first it can look fun, but here’s what happens to you after each drink or each time you smoke, it becomes harder and harder for your body to manage that substance,” Woolley said.

He suggests parents should also be open about their drinking habits.

“If parents do drink at home, it’s important to show responsibility with that,” Woolley said. “If there are parties, they need to show that we don’t drive after we drink.”

Woolley said kids who feel close to their parents are more likely to listen and make better decisions. The key is to stay involved in their daily lives.

The state-funded group, Parents Empowered, suggests parents use the “5 w’s” anytime their child leaves the house:

  • Where are you going?
  • Who will you be with?
  • What will you be doing?
  • When will you be home?
  • Will there be alcohol?

“Make a deal with your teenager. If you’re at a party, and there’s drinking and drugs happening, and you’re uncomfortable, and you want to come home, you’ll never be in trouble,” Woolley said.

He said it’s not about having a one-time conversation about alcohol but an ongoing topic.

The Five W’s (KSL TV)

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Talking to kids about the dangers of underage drinking