Talking to adult children about alcohol

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Hand holding up glass of wine

An article recently caught my attention. It is the latest chapter in a familiar tragic tale that seems to have no end. Early one morning, a group of seven young adults were crammed into a pickup truck. I can hear the jokes, the laughter, and shouts of glee that must have come from that vehicle as the group drove through a picturesque forest in Mason County, WA. I can also hear that joyful sound coming to an abrupt stop when the driver lost control of the truck. You see, they slammed into a tree and two of the passengers riding in the bed of the truck were ejected and died in that forest. The investigators’ statement on this tragedy: they suspect alcohol and marijuana to have been contributing factors.

All the Don’t Drink and Drive education, events, and media coverage seem futile when adults take their chances and drive under the influence.

To shake off this thought, I started combing through my files to identify ways that adults can talk to each other about the dangers of driving under the influence and to have this conversation without sounding dictatorial or condescending. Being a parent, I started framing this conversation to have with my grown children.

The following is a checklist that might help you too:

1. Prepare yourself for a conversation with your adult son or daughter by reviewing the resource library by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Pick out a couple of statistics that you were not aware of and keep them in your back pocket as talking points.

2. When you are ready to talk to your adult child, start by saying you love them and that this latest story in the news scared you. The story stopped you cold and you thought, “What if that had been my kid?

3. Confirm that you aren’t about to tell them what to do, because the two of you are beyond that point in your relationship. Your goal is to share with them how you would be impacted if they were killed like the young adults in that truck.

4. Work towards making a mature commitment to each other by agreeing on the following:

a) Drinking will be in moderation, which is about one drink an hour.

b) You don’t consume alcohol if you are boating, swimming, or travelling in a car.

c) Finding an alternative way home if you are faced with a drinking or intoxicated designated driver.

 5. Revisit this topic around holidays when consuming alcohol seems to be part of the celebration. You can even take it a step further and make pledges together that will keep you both safe.

Need help preparing for a conversation with your adult child? Contact your EFAP to talk about the different ways you can connect with a counsellor who can support you through the process.

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