Set a good example
Parenting teenagers is difficult, and parents may feel helpless when it comes to their teens abusing alcohol. The truth is there is a lot you can do to prevent your adolescent from experimenting with alcohol at an early age. You have a substantial influence over how your child’s attitude towards alcohol develops.
Children readily pick up behavior at home from their parents, and alcohol consumption isn't an exception. Behavior surrounding alcohol use can affect the development of alcohol abuse in your child, but so can non-alcohol-specific behaviors. How your children are nurtured and encouraged to express themselves affects their cognitive development and decision-making skills. Alcohol-specific influences like poor parental drinking habits may also lead to alcohol abuse in children.
As an adult, it’s within your legal right to consume alcohol. However, you should ensure you consume alcohol responsibly, including avoiding alcohol in high-risk situations like driving. Remember, your teenager picks up habits through observation.
Support your children and give them space to grow
Parenting entails staying involved in your child’s life while giving them enough space to grow independently within appropriate limits. Adolescents are in a phase where they crave a sense of control in their lives. Teens need to develop decision-making skills to help them become independent in adulthood. Allowing your child to make decisions within clear enforced limits empowers them to develop self-control and make good life choices that include staying away from alcohol. However, you should also carefully monitor your child’s activities. Knowing where your children are, whom they are with, and what they are doing helps you be more involved in their lives.
You can promote healthy development by keeping your child active through encouraging:
- Participation in household tasks
- Enrolling in school clubs and sports
- Taking part in outdoor activities
Active teens experience less boredom, and the activities can direct the teen’s energy away from alcohol consumption.
In addition to keeping your child engaged, you may also want to get to know the parents of your child’s friends. You can share parenting advice and get support from people who understand your child and their personality.
Help teens understand the risks of underage drinking
Your adolescent may think underage drinking isn’t a big problem since alcohol use is considered normal behavior in society. As a parent, however, you need to help them understand the ill effects of teenage drinking. Sharing some facts about the consequences of teen alcohol use may be enough to discourage underage drinking.
Alcohol can give rise to physical, mental, and social problems in teens. Underage drinking can increase the risks of many issues, including:
Know the signs of teenage drinking
Understanding the signs of teenage drinking can help parents identify drinking problems early, allowing them time to respond appropriately. Signs of alcohol consumption in teens can include:
- Physical signs such as bloodshot eyes, slow speech, and low energy
- Behavioral signs such as changes in friend groups, poor grooming, and poor school attendance
- Emotional signs such as frequent mood swings, irritability, and carelessness
- Mental signs such as depression, altered sleep patterns, poor focus, and memory loss.
If several of these signs occur at the same time or seem extreme, it may be time to discuss them with your teen and find ways you can help.
Handling teens consuming alcohol
If you learn that your teen is consuming alcohol, you may feel disappointed, but try not to overreact. Take control of the situation by staying calm when confronting your teen. If they feel like you’re willing to listen, they may then find the courage to confide in you.
Having an open discussion with your teen is often the best course of action to start with. Try to begin a dialogue by using appropriate communication tactics. For instance:
- Talk at the right time, such as after watching a good TV show
- Find a common topic to discuss, such as sports, then divert the talk to alcohol use
- Discuss the health effects of consuming alcohol on teens in general and make it clear that you’re concerned about these issues in your teen
Try to find out when and why your teen started drinking alcohol without sounding like you’re interrogating them. Adolescents may start drinking out of boredom, peer pressure, or curiosity. The answers your child provides can help you gauge the extent of their alcohol abuse and whether they may be experiencing alcohol dependence.
Most importantly, ensure your teen knows they can always turn to you when faced with a problem and you’ll be ready to help. If there is a likelihood of an alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction, speak to a health care provider for possible solutions.
Child Mind Institute: "How to Talk to Your Teen About Substance Use," "Tips for Communicating With Your Teen."
Greater Good Magazine: "How Independent Should Your Teenager Be?"
HelpGuide: "Underage Drinking and Teen Alcohol Use."
KidsHealth: "Alcohol," "Motivating Kids to Be Active."
Lane County Public Health Prevention: "Signs of Underage Alcohol Use."
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "Parenting Influences on the Development of Alcohol Abuse and Dependence," "Parenting to Prevent Child Alcohol Use," "Strategies to Prevent Underage Drinking."
Positive Choices: "Drug and Alcohol Information."
University of Florida Health: "Risks of underage drinking."
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