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Principal perspective: Talking alcohol with your kid

Another Labor Day has passed and for many people that means the end of swim season and the start of the new school year. As Principal of Glebe Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia, I always look forward to the new school year and all the promise that it holds.

For some parents, back to school is a relief after two months of intense (and fun) quality time together. However, for some it can be a nerve wracking experience, especially for parents whose kids are entering a school for the first time.

As the school years change and the students continue to grow, one thing remains the same; they will be exposed to and experiencing new things. There will be a lot of firsts in any school year. One of the questions you will be asked – if you haven’t already – is to discuss alcohol. As you mark things off your back to school checklist, make sure to include this important topic.

It’s never too early to discuss alcohol and underage drinking with your children, even in elementary school. In fact, it is of paramount importance. Consider these important facts:

  • Nearly 9 million kids ages 12-20 in America report having consumed alcohol in the past 30 days
  • The average age kids between 12-17 begin to drink is 13 years of age (7th grade)
  • In 2012, 86% of kids said that their parents were the biggest reason they did not drink alcohol

Research clearly shows that parents are the main influence on their children’s decisions to drink – or not drink – alcohol, even in high school but especially in a child’s younger years. Kids may act like they aren’t listening but research has proven they hear you loud and clear. They also notice your behavior and model their own after yours.

It is important to address the topic of underage drinking early, often and before they encounter peer pressure situations.  Parents and educators can work together to provide clear expectations and facts about underage drinking, including ways to respond if they find themselves in a situation where alcohol is present. Hopefully we can teach them to say no to underage drinking. It will still be necessary to have these conversations in high school and as you send them off to college. It’s a conversation that needs to happen repeatedly.  

So, how do you start that conversation? You just dive right in. Luckily, The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility has free resources to help you get started. For elementary school students, there is a new Grab the Goodies app, available in the iTunes App store and Google Play. This school year, start the conversation early and guide your child in the right direction. For more information on how to start the conversation, visit

Jamie Borg is the Principal at Glebe Elementary School. 

*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( or any member.*

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