Small Talks: Start Talking, It Makes a Difference

Think kids won’t listen? Think again. Research shows that parents and other caring adults are the most powerful influence on children’s choices about underage drinking. That means you can make a real difference, especially if you start early. Don’t worry; it’s easier than you may think. We can show you how.

A mother and son talking over breakfast in a kitchen


What is a small talk?

Small talks are short, casual conversations that help you connect with your child on the important stuff, like underage drinking. Having lots of small talks over time helps build trust and set expectations as kids change and grow. Luckily, there’s no big production necessary. Just choose the alcohol-free moment that feels right to you. You can have a small talk anytime, anywhere.

A boy watching TV above text says watching a show-why do you think that character drinks
A father and daughter talk while playing games on their mobile devices above text that says while gaming-how do you and your friends have fun
A mother and daughter talking on a couch above text that says after the news-what decisions led to that situation
A father and son talking while they listen to music on a tablet above text that says listening to music do your favorite bands sing about drinking a lot



What if I mess it up?



You can’t. Having a lot of talks (even do-overs) is the point. Every attempt shows kids you care and are paying attention.

How to talk to kids at every age

Every child is different, but understanding where most kids around your child’s age are in their development—and what they usually understand about alcohol—can help parents and caregivers start out their very earliest conversations about underage drinking on the right foot.

A mother and her young daughter talking in the kitchen while making a meal

Preschoolers (Ages 3-4)

Little ones learn by watching the adults around them. By drinking in moderation, if you drink, you can indirectly teach children an important lesson by setting a good example.


Two boys talking over lunch in a kitchen

Kids (Ages 5-7)

They’re curious about their bodies. Focus on the way alcohol affects a person’s motor skills, judgment, and behavior.


Three girls laying on the floor smiling

Tweens (Ages 8-12)

Tweens are into their friends and unusual facts. Explain how underage drinking can put kids their age in danger, and practice how to deal with peer pressure.


A teen girl and teen boy posing for a photo

Teens (Ages 13-17)

They’re growing independent, so help them find good reasons to wait. Talk about the risks, their future, and making safe choices.


Download the tips

Serious topics, like underage drinking, can be intimidating. Our downloadable handout can help you feel more prepared to have stress-free small talks, with evidence-based advice for:

  • How to get ready to talk to your kids about alcohol
  • What you can expect during a small talk
  • Things you might say (and things you shouldn’t)
  • Other ways you can help kids grow up alcohol-free

A father talks with his daughter while they cut woodStudy up on underage drinking

You don’t have to have all the answers. But having the facts about underage drinking can boost your confidence—and make you a more informed resource for your kid.

Last Revised: November 25, 2020