Helpful Language To Use For The Talk

What Language Should You Use To Engage Your Kids?

Finding the right words to talk about drinking can be difficult, but, with help, you can successfully get through to your child. The panel of experts consulted in this study identified words and phrases that help create space for a constructive, open conversation between parents and children.

Those experts agree that asking questions is a wonderful way to start a conversation. Check out these examples of language to use when having The Alcohol Talk with your child:

  • Wow, huh, tell me more about it.
  • I wonder what you could do?
  • What do you think about what happened to those football players who got caught drinking?
  • I can't imagine how hard it must be. Things are much different from when I was a teen.
  • Tell me more about it. How would you solve it?

Always remember, not all language is verbal — actions can speak louder than words. For example, parents should practice what they preach and drink responsibly. Setting positive examples for your child is a great way to reinforce the conversations you’re having with them.

See below for more ways you can start The Alcohol Talk.

Conversation Modules:

Starting a Conversation About Alcohol

Action Step:
  1. Get the Teen's Perspective

    What Can Be Said:
    • What do you know about drinking?
    • Why do you think teens drink?
  2. Inquire About Recent Happenings

    What Can Be Said:
    • Tell me about last night.
    • Tell me about who was there and what you all did.
  3. Find Time to Talk

    What Can Be Said:
    • It's clear that you are uncomfortable talking about this right now, but we really need to have this conversation.
    • Let's set an appointment for when we can sit down and discuss drinking.

Building a trusting, open dialogue

Action Step:
  1. Parent Shares their Experience

    What Can Be Said:
    • I remember when I was your age a friend of mineā€¦
  2. Love Unconditionally

    What Can Be Said:
    • I love you. I care about you and what happens to you. I'm here for you.

Establishing Norms

Action Step:
  1. When teens go out ask them who, what, when, and how.

    What Can Be Said:
    • Who will you be going out with tonight?
    • What will you be up to tonight?
    • When do you anticipate returning home?
    • What will you do if you are offered alcohol?
    • How will you respond if your friends are getting in a car with a driver who has been drinking?
  2. Develop ground rules together. The teen will be more likely to adhere to the rules if they participate in setting expectations.

    What Can Be Said:
    • Remember the ground rules we established together. Please remember to be home by the time we agreed.

Talking about Consequences

Action Step:
  1. Ask how alcohol can impact their goals.

    What Can Be Said:
    • How do you think alcohol consumption could have an impact on your grades, college aspirations, and career goals?
  2. Gather their point of view on how alcohol may affect them.

    What Can Be Said:
    • How do you think alcohol affects your mind and body?
  3. Ask teens for their perspective on what may happen legally if there's underage drinking, drunk driving, fake IDs, etc.

    What Can Be Said:
    • Do you understand the legal consequences of underage drinking? Do you understand we as parents could be arrested if you allow friends to bring alcohol to a party at our house?


  • While it can be tempting for parents to jump in and impose solutions, it's important to ask your teen's opinion.
  • Provide your child with opportunities to come to their own conclusions and solutions. Avoid dictating facts.
  • Use relevant topics, such as magazine articles or TV shows, as a jumping off point for conversations.
  • Remember, not all language is verbal — actions can speak louder than words. Parents should practice what they preach about responsible drinking.
  • Do your research. Go to, the website for the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Research, to learn how alcohol affects the mind and body.
Get parenting advice from our expert!

Ask Doctor JPL Click Here