As parents, it seems that there is a long list of potential dangers and things to be concerned about as our children get older. From drugs, alcohol, early exposure to mature information, there are so many things for you as a parent to talk to your teens about. Unfortunately, underage drinking has continued to be a problem for many teens and pre-teens and the consequences can be immense and life changing.

It is important to remember that your children, even as pre-teens and teens, actually do listen to what you tell them. Therefore you should take all opportunities to educate your kids about the dangers of underage drinking and the temptations they are going to face, providing them with guidance on how to deal with these situations as they arise.

Whether it is before a sleepover or before your teen goes out with friends on a Friday night, there are tons of opportunities to bring up the topic of drinking with your teen. Although it may be difficult to talk about, and it can make you feel “uncool” as a parent to have these conversations, put aside these feelings and deliver the message. Starting these talks early makes it a lot easier. It is imperative to have an open, honest line of communication with your teen, so that they feel they can come to you with questions and concerns.

Talk to your children about the dangers of binge drinking, the potentially fatal consequences of alcohol poisoning, and the devastation that alcoholism can wreak on an individual and family. Binge drinking – or the excessive consumption of alcohol in a short period of time – is a serious risk for younger people with little to no experience with drinking. They need to understand that beer and wine are still alcohol and that a lower alcohol content does not make these beverages safe.

Unfortunately, alcohol is not the only concern parents need to address. With the rise of prescription drug use, the underage and unlawful use of a variety of different pharmaceutical drugs is now a serious issue. Kids have greater access to these drugs than ever before and many have a false sense of security about the “safety” of prescribed drugs versus street drugs.

Most teens understand that they shouldn’t drink and they shouldn’t take prescription drugs, but they experience peer pressure and a general lack of knowledge about addictive substances. As parents, our job is to arm them with ways of saying no and the information they need to make smart and informed decisions.