Parents should start talking with their children about the dangers of drinking as early as age 9, according to a new government campaign. Children start to think more positively about alcohol between ages 9 and 13, research shows.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which launched the campaign, says about 10 percent of 12-year-olds have tried alcohol, and half of 15-year-olds have done so.
Many teens listen to their parents’ advice on drinking. In one study, 80 percent of teens said their parents were the largest influence on their decision whether or not to drink, NPR reports.
The “Talk. They Hear You” campaign includes a toolkit with templates for a parent-child pledge, and scripts for talking with children about sensitive subjects, such as why it’s permissible for parents to drink. Parents are provided with suggested texts they can send, such as, “Have fun tonight. Remember, alcohol can lead you 2 say things and do things u wish u hadn’t.”
The campaign gives parents advice on topics including never serving alcohol to teens at home, and telling teens they shouldn’t drink at parties or get in a car with a driver who has been drinking.
“These young people are our future leaders—our future teachers, mayors, doctors, parents, and entertainers,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release. “As our youth and young adults face challenges, we as a community, need to effectively communicate with them in every way possible about the risks of underage drinking so that they have the necessary tools to make healthy and informed choices.”