Prevent Alcohol and Tobacco Use: Talk About It

Mother and daughter talking at outdoor cafeGetting Comfortable with a Tough Topic

Seven out of 10 parents of 10 to 15 year olds say they are “very comfortable” talking with their kids about alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. However, only 38 percent of youth in the same families say they are “very comfortable” talking with their parents about these issues.1

Here are some discussion starters to help you get started.

Discussion Starters with Your Kids

Even though the main goal of this discussion is preventing youth use of tobacco and alcohol, it’s helpful for parenting adults and youth to share their experiences and perspectives. That will make it more comfortable for young people to talk about it, too.

  1. What are some of your early memories of seeing others use alcohol or tobacco? What do you remember about those? How did you react at the time?
  2. Where have our family’s attitudes about alcohol and tobacco come from? Are those influences positive or negative, in your view?
  3. Think about your best friends. Do they use alcohol? Tobacco? When, where, and how much? In what ways does what your friends do influence what you do?
  4. If you could change one law related to alcohol or tobacco, what would you change? Why?

Discussion Starters with Other Parenting Adults*

  1. What are our biggest concerns regarding alcohol or tobacco use?
  2. What’s hardest in addressing youth alcohol or tobacco use in our community? What has worked?
  3. What are great resources in our community to help with keeping kids substance free? What groups or places in the community are problematic or make it harder?
  4. How have our own experiences growing up affected how we think about alcohol and tobacco use? If those attitudes are harmful, how do we begin to change the patterns for our own kids?
  5. Where do we agree and differ in our expectations for youth alcohol or tobacco use? How do we resolve those issues so that we have a consistent approach?

* These parenting adults may include your spouse or partner, extended family members, friends who are parents, or a parent group or class.

Next Steps

  • Learn about the importance of preventing underage alcohol and tobacco use.
  • Try activities for building your family’s strengths in order to prevent youth alcohol and tobacco use.

Research Sources

1. Syvertsen, A. K., Roehlkepartain, E. C., & Scales, P. C. (2012). The American family assets study. Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.