As discussed in our previous blog, “Teen Alcohol Use: Parents Can Make a Difference,” whether you talk to your teen or not, he or she will begin forming opinions about drinking alcohol. The goal for having these conversations early and often is so that your child will not only feel comfortable talking to you about it, but also so you can influence their opinions to be healthy and realistic. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, children who learn about the dangers of alcohol and drug use through conversations with their parents are 50% less likely to use these substances. As a parent, you really can make a difference.
When determining what to share about the dangers of teen alcohol use, the National Institute on Drug Abuse for teens has very helpful information, including, but not limited to:
- What is an alcohol use disorder?
- How does alcohol affect the teenage brain?
- What are the negative consequences of underage drinking?
Educating yourself will allow you to gain confidence in what you share with your teen, as well as being able to provide him or her with a helpful resource. When teens are educated about the dangers of alcohol use now and in the future, they are also more likely to become advocates for their peers to also stay away from drinking alcohol. Test your knowledge:
It’s important to recognize that self-disclosure can quickly backfire. Some teens may respond with, “You did it, so why can’t I?” If your child inquires about your personal experience with alcohol, it’s okay to share why you know getting drunk is not a good experience, and how you learned from it. One of the aspects about drinking alcohol that many teens do not understand is that when you are impaired, you aren’t thinking correctly and could wind up in a very dangerous situation. It’s beneficial to share your concerns about what could happen, rather than personal experiences of what has happened.
My Teen is Already Drinking. Now What?
If your teen is already exhibiting signs of alcohol use, it is normal to feel a whirlwind of emotions: anger, worry, sadness, fear, guilt. Our Lead Family Therapist has valuable tips on how to approach this issue,
“Using an interrogation approach is likely to either create a power struggle between you and your child, or cause him or her to shut down complete. Instead, approach the conversation with compassion. Share your worries and fears about the situation. Start the conversation by stating, ‘I fear there is something going on and I want to us to be open and honest about it.’ A soft approach, rather than pointing the finger or placing blame, is more likely to create a healthy conversation between you and your child.”
Of course, teens may still be in denial or resistant to open up about their alcohol use. If your teen’s drinking has started to affect their major life domains (education, family relationships, work, social relationships), then the approach should shift to it now being time for outside help.
This is also a valuable time, if you have not already done so, to address the views of other parents in the community. Some parents may think that having kids drink at their home is okay, because they can keep them safe; however, this is not the case. This permissive parenting can be severely harmful for children who grow up in a culture where early drinking is the norm with no clear boundaries. Studies show that this lack of boundaries can lead to binge drinking and alcoholism in teens and young adults.
Despite the current situation with your child, and whether or not they have tried alcohol, we highly encourage having open and honest discussions with them about teen alcohol use. Raising awareness about teen alcohol use is the first step towards reducing the rates of underage drinking. Take the first step towards making a difference today by starting the conversation with your child.
- Teen Alcohol Use: Parents Can Make a Difference
- The Stigma of Addiction
- Preventing Teen Substance Abuse
If your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol and it has them caught in a downward spiral, call Teen Treatment Center today: (844)319-5239. Our team is dedicated to healing teens who may be suffering from substance abuse, mental health and behavioral issues. Take the first step towards restoring your family.