LAPS: Talk To Your Child About Alcohol Responsibility

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April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The Spring season of celebrations is upon us and summer break will soon be here. It is a perfect time to start or continue talking with young people about their choices around alcohol. It is never too early to have a conversation about alcohol responsibility.

Having a connection with a caring adult and understanding clear expectations around substance use are two of the top factors that protect young people from risk. 

Alcohol continues to be the most socially acceptable form of drugs, so it can be easy to dismiss the negative effects it can have on children and adolescents. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, however, “it is important to remember that alcohol is a powerful, mood-altering drug. Not only does alcohol affect the mind and body in often unpredictable ways, but teens lack the judgment and coping skills to handle alcohol wisely.”

When starting a conversation, it can help to stay calm and curious and to emphasize safety and connection. As adults, part of our job is to help keep children safe. Here are some starter conversation points:

  1. Express that you care about your child’s health and wellbeing. 
  2. Ask open ended questions and try your best to listen calmly without interrupting.
  3. Emphasize safety when sharing information – teens who drink are more likely to be victims of crime or involved in alcohol-related crashes. Drinking also increases the risk of sexual assault or unplanned, unprotected sex.
  4. Talk about the developing brain and the science of addiction – one reason there are laws regulating substance use is to prevent the developing brain and body from becoming addicted – the likelihood of addiction is higher the earlier in life someone is exposed to substance use. If you have a family history of alcoholism, your child may also be more susceptible to alcohol misuse.
  5. Remind teens that the majority of their peers are not drinking alcohol, even if it seems like they are.
  6. Discuss your family’s values and work together to set clear rules and expectations. Follow up with consequences and continuing conversations when expectations are not met.
  7. Anticipate scenarios and practice exit strategies – what could your teen do if they are offered alcohol or find themselves in an unsafe situation? Practice refusal skills and make a plan for how they can notify you or someone else if they need to exit a situation.
  8. Assure them that if they are already using alcohol or other drugs, you are there to support them and connect them to resources if needed.
  9. Commit to making this a continuing conversation.

Additional Resources:

Make a Difference: Talk to Your Child About Alcohol, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Ask Listen Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix, Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility

The 5 Actions Program, free, confidential, self-paced program for addressing addiction, New Mexico Crisis and Access Line

The Los Alamos Public Schools district coordinates a spectrum of prevention activities that are provided by school staff and community partners with funding support from Los Alamos County. The aim of the program is to build protective factors, life skills, and resilience and reduce risk behaviors and harm to children and youth.

For more information or to offer suggestions to the LAPS Prevention Program, Prevention Support Specialist Kristine Coblentz can be reached at or 505-663-2575.