Being the parent of a teenager is not always easy. You know it is important to talk to your teen about alcohol among many other difficult topics. We have compiled tips for parents from a variety of leading resources that are available. We hope this gives you additional ideas as you begin or continue conversations with your teen about alcohol.
Let your teen know were you stand on the issue of underage drinking. Clearly stating family expectations, rules, and consequences will help you and your teen to be on the same page about alcohol use. It is important to discuss the rules and consequences, but try not to threaten. If the rules are broken, it is very important to enforce the consequences that you and your teen discussed. You can even create a contract with your teen’s input.
Do not contradict the rules and expectations that you and your teen have discussed by providing alcohol for your teen for special events like graduation. If you have alcohol in the house, lock your liquor cabinet and monitor your refrigerator. If you drink in front of your teen, model responsible adult drinking behavior. Do not ask your teen to pour drinks, open a bottle of wine, or bring drinks to adults from the refrigerator.
Frequently discuss the issue of underage alcohol use. Encourage your teen to talk to you about what is going on at school, with peers, and extracurricular activities. Be open to questions and do not be judgmental of how your teen is feeling. He or she may put up with quite a bit of pressure from peers at school. Let your teen know you love them, are proud of them, and know they are capable of making positive decisions that make you proud.
When your teen wants to talk about alcohol, make time and be open. Value his or her thoughts and opinions on the subject. Stay consistent with the rules that you have set for your household.
Get to Know Your Teen’s Friends
It is important to know who your teen hangs out with, and where they are. This is not an unreasonable rule although your teen may try and tell you that it is! They will thank you later in life for ensuring that they come out of adolescence as a healthy and capable adult.
Focus on Assets
When discussing underage drinking, focus on the positive values (personal, values, family, religious) that your teen and your values hold that do not support underage drinking. It may also be important to discuss cultural or family traditions that include the acceptable use of alcohol. It may also help to discuss alcohol with your teen’s friends’ parents. They may be going through the same thing in their household. If other parents do not mind alcohol use by underage drinkers in their home, host that friend in your home only.
Keep your teenager involved in hobbies or extracurricular activities that they enjoy. Encourage your teenager to join a club or team, to become a volunteer, or get a part-time job. If your teen is interested in sports, John Underwood provides great information on the effects of alcohol on athletic performance. To learn more about John Underwood and how alcohol affects athletic performance, visit his site. Check out the links tab on the site for more information on John Underwood and the American Athletic Institute.
Discuss Drunk Driving
Make it clear to your teen that it is never acceptable to ride with a driver that has been drinking, whether that be a friend or an adult. Let them know that their safety comes first and that you will not punish them for being truthful with you if they need a ride. This does not give them permission to drink, but instead encourages your teen to call for a ride or take a cab instead of making the potentially fatal decision to try to get home themselves when it is unsafe.
American Medical Association. (2001). Teens and alcohol. Retrieved from http://www.pamf.org/teen/parents/risk/alcohol.html