Would you say that you and your teenager have meaningful talks about important life matters on a regular basis? Do you ever talk about drinking and alcohol abuse? A majority of teens have at least tried alcohol by the time they are 18, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. We may want to think our kids are only taking tasting sips and trying drinks, but often teens engage in binge drinking or heavy drinking.
Experimentation at a young age may be deemed normal by some but could also lead to poor decisions and bad habits if not addressed with your child. Most importantly – remember that talking to your teen is a two-way street.
Review Your Stance
When preparing to have the conversation with your teen, take a look at your own family history and how you personally feel about drinking. Be ready to talk about your family history and what rules or boundaries you want in place in case you find out your child is abusing alcohol.
Most teens will have tried alcohol by the time they are 18, but many may start by the age of 14 or earlier! Don’t be afraid to approach the topic with your young teen or middle school-aged child. They are going through a time in their lives that is very confusing and full of discovery. While you want to respect your child’s growing independence, you should also make sure they know there are limits to be respected.
Talk about your experiences in growing up. What kind of social pressures were you faced with at your child’s age and what did you do to deal with them? Try to find out what social pressures and issues are arising at their school. Find the similarities in the situations even though times have changed a bit.
Explain to your children the legal consequences of drinking as well as the developmental ones. Alcohol is a powerful, mood-altering drug. Children who abuse alcohol are also more likely to be sexually active at a younger age and suffer in school. Drinking at a young age can have a lasting cognitive impact on the brain. Explain the legal ramifications for being caught with a DUI underage and find out if your teen knows anyone who has experienced the consequences of such behavior.
Ask open-ended questions about the topic. When you truly try to understand your child’s feelings about the situation, you will discover much more. The conversation can often get stuck in a “yes” or “no” cycle. Try to avoid passing harsh judgment on your child if they admit their mistakes to you.
Make a plan with your teen to avoid abusing alcohol and resist peer pressure. Standing your ground about alcohol helps your teen stand theirs. Discuss potential situations where alcohol could be involved and how to avoid them. Encourage them to build healthy friendships and participate in non-alcohol related activities.
What It Comes Down To
Studies show that there is a strong correlation between children who choose not to abuse alcohol while underage and the strength and trustworthiness of the relationship they have with their parents. Show your child how much you care about them by spending one-on-one time with them. Accept them for who they are and the problems they face. Enforce some consequences when they do cross the line. As parents, every single day brings about a new battle and as our children grow, the issues only get more complicated for them and for us. Believe that you have the power to help your child.