How To Really Talk To Your Teens About Underage Drinking

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This is a sponsored blog post and I was compensated by Anheuser-Busch to be part of the Family Talk About Drinking Program. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

tips to talk to teens about alcohol

We are on the cusp of a new stage of life.

Our oldest is a senior in high school with more college classes on the horizon and our middle daughter is going into her second year of high school. Long gone are the days of simple talks with these two where I am parenting kids. Now I am raising adults. I feel a definite shift happened over the past couple of years.

daddy daughter dance

It is hard to believe that they were once this little. This was 6 years ago right before their daddy-daughter dance. Now it is all about prom, which means we are having more meaningful conversations, especially about underage drinking.

We have always shared our family values with the girls and our expectations when it comes to underage drinking, but even now, after all these years, I find myself trying to find the right words or conversation starters to help keep the conversation going with them. I know that it is more important than ever to talk about this and a really good resource Pete and I have been using to help us is the Family Talk About Drinking website.

Family Talk About Drinking, in partnership with parent coach MJ Corcoran, provides support, tools, and insights for parents aiming to develop stronger relationships with their children and prevent underage drinking. This mission is especially important around prom and graduation season, when teens may encounter more opportunities and peer pressure to drink underage.

Parents can help their teens prepare for prom and graduation season by building and reinforcing the trust they have with their teens, establishing expectations beforehand, and most importantly, maintaining open lines of communication about their teens’ plans.


The website uses “Stages of Parenting” to help parents create the right age-specific atmosphere so they can have meaningful conversations about underage drinking with their kids. Springtime is a particularly busy but important time for parents of older teenagers to have these conversations ahead of prom and graduation season. I have been using stage three advice (also known as the “coach” phase) because it is geared towards 14 to 21-year-olds, which is where Ashley and Maddie are right now at 14 and 17 respectfully.

I learned from the advice and tips on the website that parents really are the number one influence on their kids’ decisions about underage drinking, so it’s important for us parents to build relationships ingrained in trust with our teens to help them make responsible choices.

talking to kids about underage drinking

I especially thought that the three communications strategies for prom and graduation were exactly what I and a lot of other parents really need this time of year. They are face-to-face communications, the power of place and communication variety.

I love how they encourage you to communicate with your teen in a way that reaches your teen the best. Like face-to-face conversations, Facebook messages, and even Snaps can be part of these communication strategies. Since every parent-teen relationship is different, there is no right or wrong way to talk with our teens.

I sat down with my teens (and I shared our talk on our Instagram story) and used a mix of these communication strategies and tips to talk about prom and graduation and how it relates to underage drinking.

Face-to-face communication.

Depending on your teens’ communication preferences, make time to have a conversation face-to-face about their prom and graduation plans. When talking with your teens, be honest about your feelings and match their stance – sit if they’re sitting, stand if they’re standing. Recognition that they’re listening is important, but eye contact can actually be intimidating to teens and make them feel frustrated. This can be a difficult topic for both parents and teens, so be approachable and encourage a two-way conversation where your teens are free to share their thoughts and concerns. Asking open-ended questions is a great way to foster conversation and build trust.

The power of place.

You may be surprised that some of best and most realistic opportunities for serious conversations with your teens are found in seemingly unconventional circumstances. Places that create one-on-one time and have minimal distraction, like on a long car ride or a hike, are great examples. Approach the conversation with a plan, and make sure you and your spouse or partner are united and consistent in your messaging. Start on a light note and invite your teens to talk about the details for upcoming events like prom and graduation, and slowly move toward more serious topics like underage drinking prevention.

Communication variety.

Do your teens spend more time in front of a screen than anything else? Rest assured – there’s nothing wrong with having serious conversations with your teens using their preferred mediums, like through text, messaging apps or social media. Connect with your teens in the ways that are most natural and comfortable for them, which will help build your connection and ensure they understand your expectations about underage drinking prevention.  

It was really refreshing to have these actionable tips that I could use right away to talk to my girls more. We came up with a plan for how they would react in different situations involving alcohol, and I reinforced that I trusted them and that I would be there for them to help them in difficult situations. I think that it really helped that I made sure that they were being heard and that they were able to put into words what they would say and do in situations that involved underage drinking.

For more information on how to build trust and start conversations about underage drinking prevention with your teens, visit the Family Talk About Drinking website.

Are you talking to your teens about preventing underage drinking?


Heather Reese
the authorHeather Reese
Heather Delaney Reese is the storyteller and photographer behind the lifestyle and family travel blog, It's a Lovely Life®! For the past decade, she has vacationed over 150 days a year with her family. She is a vegan, and loves being by the water, spending time with her children, husband, 2 Shih Tzus and Cat.


  • My kiddo is a little young yet. I have actually talked about alcohol and drugs to him a little bit but as he gets older I am going to do a lot more of it. I really like all your tips here.

  • This is SO IMPORTANT! Growing up, neither of my parents drank alcohol, nor did they express the dangers of it. By my teen years I was drunk all the time, and it took a long time to learn how to get my life back under control. Every parent needs to have that talk with their child, it’s just as important as the birds and the bees talk.

  • It is so important to talk to our kids about the dangers of alcohol. There are so many pressures put on kids in high school. My Son knows he can call me at anytime if he is feeling pressure at a party to drink.

    • It is definitely a really important topic to talk about with your kids. You just want them to be safe.

  • I have a 16 year old and drinking as been coming up for the last year because her friends have had drinks and there are parties where some of the kid sneak drinks in. She has had a drink or two at some parties but does not really like it so I am happy about that.

  • I think being open with your kids and having a good communication line is key. I am glad you had the talk with your kids.

  • I think this is a very important topic. I think it’s great to make sure to be open with your kids. You want to make sure you tell them everything and hope that they’ll always communicate with you.

  • I can’t believe your girls are already that old. It is amazing what 6 years does when it comes to them growing up. I always had this conversation with each of our kids, and more than once because as we know they don’t always think before they get into a car. I think you did an excellent job on this post!

  • The drinking talk can be hard. You definitely want to keep lines of communication open.

  • We’ve already had the discussion many times. Our trick was letting them taste beer at a young age. They hated it and never want to try it again!

  • This is such a hard conversation for parents to have, but it needs to happen, over and over and over again. I think parents need a plan for even if they think their child “will never,” they are prepared and have a plan, in case. Kids need to feel that they can call out and ask for help if they make a poor decision, before making worse decisions.

  • Great post. This is a conversation to have over and over again – whenever it’s relevant. You can never overstate the importance of NOT drinking underage.

  • This is a conversation all parents need to have with their kids. It’s not easy, but it has to be done!

  • This is definitely an important conversation we all need to have with our kids. We have had this talk with all of our boys —even the little ones.

  • These are great tips. I wish my parents would have been more involved when I was young.

  • What brilliant and helpful tips! I have two teens and this is a perfect idea for both to my teens.

  • This is so helpful! My parents never talked to me about drinking, and they both drank frequently so I got into a lot of trouble as a kid. Now as I mother, I realize that I am always the first line of defense when it comes to my son’s behavior, and I need to talk openly to him about right and wrong and how to handle situations that arise in his life. We will definitely be discussing underage drinking as he gets older.

  • This is such a great post. I really enjoyed reading this. Agree that parents plays an important part to build trust and help them make responsible choices.

  • I like your starting position with this article. Raising adults is a good way to look at things at this stage I think.
    You give sound advice on a very important topic!

  • I have kids in all age groups, and I am grateful that for now they are all still very open with communication when it comes to doing things they know they shouldn’t. Great post!

  • It all starts at home and I think the less open you are about anything that they will face in life, the more distant they’ll gate. Underage drinking is a topic we try to avoid and just limit the conversation to simply saying don’t do it. I always thought there was more to that than that phrase.

  • I think it’s really important to learn how to communicate in a way that they won’t feel like you’re stopping or restricting them from anything. This is a lovely guide for parents handling teens for the first time.

  • I find that it’s easier to talk to the girls about this than the boys. I have a teen who is currently in college and we’re very open about drinking and everything else. The boys are about to enter their highschool years and I’m not sure if I’m connecting with them the best possible way. I think communication is really important.

  • Thank you! This is awesome. My oldest is turning 14, and this is something I’ve been struggling with knowing how to even approach this all with him again. The first time was a while ago and I’d like to refresh his memory.

  • Talking with our children, not at our children is so important for big issues like this. I love this post and wish my parents had seen it when I was younger because our conversation simply consisted of “don’t drink, it’s bad.” Kids want to feel like they can voice opinions and concerns and when they are talked at not with I find they become so afraid to bring things up because they think they’ll “be in trouble.”

  • I really didnt drink until college. I guess if you pre-talk to your kids in a good loving way and not nag them they will listen.

  • When my oldest was a teen, we went through a rough patch with underage drinking. It was not something I ever want to go through again. But, it did give me a starting point to talk to my younger daughter about it. For that, i am thankful. And at age 18, she had not touched a drop. Ever.

  • It’s important to convey the message. Doesn’t matter how, just so long as it’s done lovingly and effectively.

  • What a timely post! With lots of prom nights celebrated at this time of year, we must have had that talk with our teenagers to help them decide the best appropriate action especially when peer pressure sets in.

  • I talked with my children about this, and it was not easy. Teenagers want to try everything and the more you say “No” the more it pushes them to try it. I like your tips on how to start the talk about teenage drinking. I took them on a long car ride, one child at a time.

  • I feel like this is going to be tough for me because my parents never really talked to me about it. I had to see what my friends were going through in order to decide on my own, not to underage drink. This is a great post on it though and I will keep it in mind when my child gets a little older.

  • That is incredibly useful. I had no idea there was a site which could help with these kind of things and i never thought of it as a strategy. I know so many friends who struggle with these conversations and end up doing a poor job at it. Your blog helps a lot and i will be recommending it to all my friends

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