May 26, 2018

Guest Column

Talk to your teen once a month? How?

Nov. 24, 2010

By Christine Lloyd-Newberry

CY – Connecting Youth is reaching out to parents as the leading influencer over teen decision-making around alcohol use. Last fall, CY worked to help parents understand that they do make a difference in their teens’ decision-making. Pre- and post-survey research conducted by CY included more than 500 parents in our community and found that attitudes, perceptions and knowledge of the above rose strongly over the year. This is great news!

There is, however, still work to be done. While 97 percent of parents in Chittenden South Supervisory Union — which includes Charlotte — believe they can influence teen choices about alcohol, only 56 percent actually talk to their teens about alcohol over the course of a month.

Let’s close this gap! Our research found that the number one reason parents do not talk to their teens regularly about alcohol use is because they don’t know how. Let us help.

A group of CY teens and parents recently created these tips:

• Try to avoid lecturing. Really listen to your teen’s casual comments and build upon those. Conversations need to happen naturally when your teen is open and that means you need to be ready to put other things aside and talk when it’s convenient for them.

• Find teachable moments to talk about underage drinking — scenes from television or movies, YouTube clips, current events, etc.

• Share information by leading with a question — ask them what they think about an issue or a news item.

• Read and have background materials and information available for when conversations come up — make conversations a part of normal, day-to-day activities.

• If teens use “third party examples” focus on the conversation, not finding out who the third party is or making sure your teen doesn’t hang out with them. Remember, they could be talking about themselves and are testing the waters about what they may be willing to share with you. But don’t assume they are talking about themselves!

• Set a date each month to talk to your teen about alcohol and other drugs. Share things you have learned, dialogue about issues and avoid lecturing. Family meetings or dinners are perfect for this.

Be a source of credible information so you can have meaningful conversations with your teen and know the consequences associated with underage drinking. It’s more than just an issue of drinking and driving. Alcohol use can have a major impact on teen brain development and is associated with many other risky behaviors.

You also need to know the laws around underage drinking. It is illegal to serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, even your own child in your own home. Penalties can include fines, imprisonment or both. There are also “social host” laws in Vermont that hold adults liable for incidents that occur as a result of furnishing alcohol to minors. In other words, there is no such thing as responsible drinking if you are under 21.

Research shows that parents are the number one influence on teen decision-making around alcohol. Take steps to influence those decisions. Our advice? Talk with your teen on a regular, ongoing basis and create a dialogue about alcohol use. As a parent you can lead by example, developing clear no-use policies and understanding the potential risks and consequences of underage drinking. By incorporating actions and knowledge into teachable moments, you can be the best defense against underage drinking.

Still unsure? To read about the most recent research and trends in prevention, visit CY online at or The CY underage drinking prevention work is happening in concert with the statewide Parent Up Campaign; is also a source of great information.

Christine Lloyd-Newberry is the Program Director of CY – Connecting Youth, a community-based organization dedicated to creating a safe and healthy environment for young people in the communities of Charlotte, Hinesburg, St. George, Shelburne and Williston.

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