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Small Talks: Role Models Make a Difference

Being a positive influence on young adults is the best way to help them make the right choices—especially when it comes to alcohol. Research shows that parents and caregivers are the number one reason that kids don’t drink. But preventing underage drinking takes a community. Together, parents, caregivers, and other role models can help to change the perception of underage drinking and give kids the confidence to grow up alcohol-free.

Two people talking


Anyone can be a role model

Role models are everywhere in the community. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, coach, law enforcement officer, or community leader—we all have a role in underage drinking prevention. And we can all make a difference! Work together to:

  • Support programs that increase youth resiliency.
  • Promote policies that make alcohol less available and accessible.
  • Enforce Wisconsin’s minimum legal drinking age.
  • Educate kids and other role models about the risks of alcohol and other substances.
  • Connect children and their families to alcohol screenings and treatment options.
  • Reduce alcohol use among high school students.
  • Reduce binge drinking among youth.

Lead by example

Your drinking habits become the drinking habits of the kids in your life. Kids start having opinions about drinking alcohol as early as age 8—partly based on what they see adults doing. So think about your drinking habits, and how you can model healthy choices for kids. Use the tips below and share our infographic with your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors

Kids copy your choices, behaviors, and attitudes

Research shows kids are aware of when adults are drinking, and even understand why adults are drinking, too. 
Tip: Cut down on how often kids see you drink by waiting to drink until after their bedtime.

A daily drink or two adds up

Experts say heavy drinking is 15 or more drinks per week for men and 8 or more drinks per week for women. 
Tip: Alternate your alcoholic drink with a fizzy water or another non-alcoholic treat.

One less drink equals one more great example

If you choose to drink, do it in moderation. Kids will notice! 
Tip: Do half-alcohol cocktails or serve them in smaller glasses to cut back.

Lead with conversation

Kids listen to what role models say. After all, you are the biggest positive influence in their lives. Short, casual conversations with kids, starting around age 8, make a big difference in underage drinking. And they can happen anywhere, anytime, and with anyone! Take the time to engage with the kids in your life about what matters to them. Then use what you know about alcohol to start the conversation. Here are some tips:

Provide reliable information

It’s important to know the facts. When explained by an adult, the data and statistics about underage drinking can make a real difference in kids’ choices and opinions about alcohol. Have open, honest conversations about the risks. Give kids the facts in a way they can relate to like, how it can affect their grades, favorite activities, health, and relationships.

Offer assistance and support

Being a kid isn’t easy. They are going through a lot of changes as they grow and face a lot of pressure, often from their peers. Let them know that you are always there for them when they need a hand or someone to talk with. Offer them support and understanding in a non-judgmental way

Tie in personal experiences

If you feel comfortable, share the experiences you had with alcohol when you were young. If a kid can relate to you and your experiences, they will have more confidence to make the right choice when faced with the pressure to drink. Give them healthy coping strategies and let them know that it’s ok to say no.

Help create an exit strategy

All kids face peer pressure in one form or another. This is especially true when it comes to underage drinking. Help them create an exit strategy for when they find themselves in a situation where they may be offered alcohol. Being prepared is the best tool to make the right choice.

What you can do as a role model

Every role model has a different relationship with the kids in their lives. Given that unique connection, everyone in the community has an opportunity to take actionable steps to combat underage drinking. Below are examples of what a few role models can do and some helpful resources.

Students with a teacher in a computer lab

Teachers play a huge role in their students’ lives and are in a great position to be a positive influence. Given the significant amount of time that kids are in the classroom, teachers often form a special bond with their students and can be a great source of support. Here are some things you can do:

  • Send strong and consistent messages about the dangers of alcohol
  • Look for ways to incorporate underage alcohol education into your classroom
  • Recognize the signs that may indicate a student is struggling with alcohol
  • Take time at events like parent-teacher conferences to keep parents informed and involved

A sports team with their coach

Coaches are natural leaders and have a special relationship with their players. Kids are always looking to learn from their coaches, so there’s always an opportunity to teach valuable skills both on and off the field. Here’s how you can help:

  • Make time after practice to educate players on how alcohol can affect them physically and decrease their performance
  • Talk to your kids and their parents about how underage drinking can affect their eligibility
  • Make it clear to parents that a zero-tolerance policy extends to team celebrations and gatherings
  • Designate trusted team leaders that can reinforce the messages about underage drinking and be a source of information and support

A law enforcement officer with a child

Law enforcement officers have an excellent opportunity to reduce underage drinking. Use your positive influence to show the kids in your community that keeping them safe is more than just enforcing the law. You are there to educate them on the dangers that many kids face and how to make healthier choices. Here’s what you can do:

  • Stay connected to kids in the neighborhoods you protect and the schools they attend
  • Offer kids a judgment-free safe space for conversation
  • Get involved in community events like town meetings, school events, local celebrations, and festivals
  • Make yourself accessible to parents and educate them on the dangers of underage drinking and ways they can limit access to alcohol

A smiling person

Communities are full of natural leaders and respected citizens that carry influence. Whether you’re a local official, youth organization leader, community volunteer, clergy, or other spiritual guides, you can make a difference. Here’s what you can do:

  • Organize alcohol-free events within the community
  • Work with local businesses and parents to limit kids’ access to alcohol
  • Find ways to integrate underage drinking education into community events
  • Provide safe spaces for kids where they can go for guidance and healthy activities

Helpful materials

Because role models are such an important positive influence on kids’ lives, we want to help put you in the best position to make the most significant impact. That’s why we’ve developed some helpful materials to guide you through talking tips and ways you can connect to the kids in your life.

Bring Small Talks to your community

Working together, we can help reduce underage drinking in Wisconsin. We have developed a Small Talks event planning toolkit and educational materials to help you organize a presentation in your community. This tool will help educate parents, caregivers, and role models in kids’ lives about the important role that staying connected with frequent casual conversations plays in preventing underage drinking. Send an email to to get a copy of an event planning toolkit and educational materials.

Last revised March 31, 2024