Imaginary friends usually fall by the wayside when a child…
My 12-year-old son and his friends are always joking around about drinking. They seem to talk a lot about getting “drunk, plastered, passing out, doing shots, chugging beers,” and I am not sure what I should do or say. Every time I re-direct him or express concern, he tells me to “lighten up.” He insists they are just kidding around and it doesn’t mean anything. Any advice on how I should handle the situation?
Take the opportunity to use these situations as interactive teaching moments. Instead of simply re-directing your son and his friends, challenge them. Empower them by asking their honest opinion about underage drinking. Ask them if they know any kids who are drinking. Ask them how they would handle alcohol-related situations. What would they do, for example, if a bunch of their friends tried to pressure them into drinking?
You may also want to talk with his friends’ parents about your concerns. This way you can take a unified approach to talking with the boys.
It is also important to talk with your son privately. Let him know why these ‘jokes’ are concerning. Encourage him to see it from your point of view – this will help him understand why it is upsetting to you.
Sometimes the best way to hit a point home is to attach a rule and set a clear consequence. For example, the rule in this situation might be “you can not joke around with your friends about drinking.” Ask your son to help you come up with a consequence. This will help him feel more like he has some say in setting the rules. A suggested consequence could be to limit his access to electronics such as tablets, computers, hand held games, video games, etc. for a day. Although your son may not understand why this is such a “big deal,” a consequence will help shape his behavior. It will send the message that this is something that matters. While he cannot control what his other friends say, tell him you expect him to re-direct any such conversations by changing the subject or simply telling his friends to stop saying these things.
Take the time to his strategize with your son. Explain to him that he may face challenging alcohol-related situations in the future. Discussing a response plan now could save him anxiety in the future.