What to Do if Your Child is Drinking Alcohol?
As a parent, we worry about our children from the day they are born until forever. Each chapter in a child’s life gives us new worries, and when they reach their teen years, the worries often seem to increase dramatically. Some of the main concerns are driving, making the right friends, drug use, and underage drinking. Teen alcohol use isn’t anything new, but it can be how you handle the situation when it arises.
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed in 1984 by Congress, requiring all states to set a legal age for purchasing and possessing alcohol to 21 years old.
In 2014, a survey done by NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) found that almost 9 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 20 admitted to having no less than one drink within the 30 days prior.
So, did the federal minimum drinking age help, or are our teens still drinking?
Your teen is busted drinking; what now?
Well, the first thing you might do is get mad at them, the situation, and possibly yourself. That’s a natural reaction, and that’s okay. But then, you need to have a productive conversation with your teen, avoid a yelling match, but instead, have a calm and productive conversation. If that needs to happen an hour later or even take place the following day. Just make sure you eventually do have a calm conversation with your teen.
You don’t need to give them a third-degree interrogation. The following tips will provide you a guideline to having this conversation.
A conversation where your teen hears what you’re saying and is LISTENING to you. A conversation where you hear what your teen is saying, and you are LISTENING to them. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child, but LISTENING is a two-way street in that village.
Stay objective and open. As you can imagine, a healthy and productive conversation should be objective and an open mind, including with your teen. Keep your mind open as they express their point of view, and they’ll be more receptive to what you say—a two-way street.
Keep questions open-ended. Like in kindergarten, when you asked your child about their day, you asked questions that required more than a “yes” or “no” answer to get them to talk about it. The same theory holds with your teenager and your concerns about possible teen alcohol addiction. Keep the conversation engaging and productive.
Ask why they were attracted to drinking. Ask your teen what made them want to drink now will lead them into thinking about their future decisions. They will think about their boundaries with alcohol and what the negative consequences could have been. Those consequences could lead to legal troubles, the danger of being intoxicated, the aftermath of being hungover, how they’re feeling the next day, doing their homework, etc. Teach your teen about teenage alcoholic symptoms. Offer them suggestions on handling future situations instead of turning to alcohol as a coping tool or giving in to peer pressure. Commonly, the teen might blame their friends.
Let your teen know you hear what they’re saying. By actively listening to what your teen is saying, repeat what you hear verbatim or general. Repeating back what you heard in a question format will let your teen know you’re listening. “So, you were feeling stressed and maybe overwhelmed, and you believed that a drink would help you relax?”
Chat about alcohol’s harmful effects. Have a calm conversation about how alcohol affects a person’s mental and physical health. Speak about safety factors, especially if driving under the influence of alcohol, and how critical, sound decisions are in life, and the long-term effects of poor decisions that will follow them all through Los Angeles and around the country.
How do you cope when your teens drinking?
Over the past 50 years, the substance of choice by most teenagers hasn’t changed a lot: alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco are the top choice of the experiment. When faced with your teen’s consumption of alcohol, get past those basic questions and statements like:
“I thought we talked about this, and I taught you better!”
“Why are you doing this? What’s next? Pot?! Cocaine?!”
Instead, offer compassion with empathy. Let your teen know that you understand where they are in life and that the teen years are tough for everyone. Confess that everyone struggles, including you, but alcohol is not a practical or healthy way to cope with problems. Let your child know that they can trust you.
What are the best steps for parents to take when their teen is sneaking Alcoholic drinks?
In 2013, a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that before they graduate, most teens will have drunk alcohol at some point, almost 70% of them. Almost 16% of those will go on to teenage alcohol addiction with binge drinking, and less than 5% will have participated in heavy drinking. So, what should a parent of a Los Angeles teenager catch drinking alcohol do? A few suggestions from experts:
Review your habits and lifestyle
Before you address your teen’s potential problem, you should first review and take stock of your habits and lifestyle. What are your opinions and actions with alcohol? At what age should a young person be allowed to drink? Is there a fully-stocked bar in your home? Would you know if any alcohol was gone? Your answers should be the guideline for establishing and informing your teenager about alcohol and drug use. Just as a toddler mimics mom and dad, so do teenagers.
Ask them what’s going on
Let them know what you know, and then ask for the facts about what’s going on with them. How much and for how long have they been drinking? What is their stand and view on alcohol use?
How can you help your teen in a situation like this?
Talk to them – a lot
Discuss your concerns about alcohol use and talk about any alcoholic history in your family. Please speak with your teen’s friends; discuss being honest to maintain trust and how the trust will equal freedom for them. Last but not least, talk to them about the risks of drinking for them and those around them.
Research Alcohol Abuse
Have your teen research the problems and risks that come with drinking alcohol. Once a teen begins researching the consequences of alcohol abuse for the family and teenage alcohol addiction and the problems associated with alcohol addiction, it will open a new perspective. After they have completed their research, have a family meeting to present their research and have a family discussion. Once teens have addressed all the critical points, have them present their findings at a family meeting.
Ask for their commitment.
Ask your teen for a personal commitment to practice alcohol and drug abstinence. This step will reinforce how important honesty, integrity, and trust are in a family. What if they won’t make this commitment? Let them know it is disappointing for you and the whole family. Reiterate how important this matter is to you for their safety and the family’s stability.
Review the alcohol and drug policy in your home
The purpose of establishing an alcohol and drug policy is so you’re able to monitor your teen’s behavior. Set the standards that must be adhered to, or consequences will occur, like loss of freedom, loss of driving privileges, etc. Driving privileges are a massive thing in Los Angeles, California, for teens today!
How can you help your teen in a situation like this?
Teenagers are a ‘monkey see – monkey do’ group of humans. If they grow up around parents that drink hard on weeknights and weekends, they’re likely to follow in those footsteps. Then when we add in peer pressure, it is easy for young minds to get swept up into doing things they wouldn’t do otherwise. When that happens, help your teen out of this situation with these steps:
- Keep the line of communication open
- Get them into the community and school activities
- Become active in their lives and those activities mentioned earlier
- Educate them on why saying no to drinking is right
- Remove all alcohol from the house
- Meet their friends and stay involved with the activities they do with them
- Learn and teach the legal consequences of teen drinking
- Find organizations that provide a safe environment and fun for teenagers
- Be aware that you are the example they follow
- Keep a line of communication open about teen drinking
What are some of the consequences to be expected?
Set boundaries for your teen on house rules for alcohol and drug use with these essential components: Zero tolerance: This means zero tolerance for drinking altogether. Do a clean sweep: With your teen, go through the house and all the vehicles and collect any alcohol and empty alcohol containers. Give assurance that if any alcohol is consumed going forward, then they have broken their commitment and your zero-tolerance policy.
Caught and busted: Set the boundaries for violation and make sure those boundaries are clear and understood, including ‘holding somebody’s drink,’ partaking of alcohol on their own or having any alcohol containers or paraphernalia.
Complete grounding: Set the grounding for two whole weeks and stick to it. Explain this is a time for them to think about their actions and decisions. During this time, it is ideal for intensive family quality time. Take them with you to run errands and talk to them while you’re in the car. Watch TV together, play games with the family.
Partial grounding additional two weeks: Loosen up the original grounding a little bit for two weeks. Allows them to visit a friend for some time. Then when they come home, allow the teen to explain what they did and make sure they adhere to the curfew you gave them, or the complete grounding goes in effect for two more weeks.
Random room and personal space searches:
- Establish a policy of random searches of bedrooms and personal space for three months.
- Keep respect for privacy to understand that this is your home, and you will be monitoring their space and then doing the inspections with them.
- Explain this is part of rebuilding your trust, and when the searches are empty, praise them and thank them for following the rules.
Tips for parents and teens
It is a natural process for teenagers to assert their independence from their parents and other adults with authority in their lives. That assertion often leads to trouble. So, how can your teen avoid this trouble? Suggest the following: Avoid Arguing When you’ve given consequences for your actions, be respectful, not mad.
How do you tell if your child has a problem with alcohol?
There are several warning signs that a teenager is having issues with alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, many of them are the same as essential growing up pains too. The key to determine the difference is if they begin having more than one or two of the following at the same time:
Mood changes: become defensiveness, irritable, and have sudden temper flare-ups.
School problems: attendance issues and poor grades, disciplinary action
Friend changes: a change in friends they are reluctant to introduce to you
Rebellion: argue and fight the family rules and societal norms, disregard of the law
A don’t care attitude: when they don’t care about a sloppy appearance, have no interest in their usual stuff, and seem to be lethargic
Alcohol: if you find alcohol in their bedroom, backpack, or smell it on them
Mental or physical health problems: poor concentration and memory lapses, bloodshot eyes, and slurred speech, a lack of coordination
Withdrawal symptoms: when a teen, or anyone, stops drinking alcohol, they will experience withdrawal symptoms of anxiety and irritability
What can you do about your teen’s problem?
As a parent, you never want to see your child sick, including sick with a disease like alcoholism. There are ways you can help them, though, and until they are of legal age, you have the guardianship power needed for decisions in their best interest. Some things you can try before it gets to hospitalization are:
Talk to your child about what alcohol is doing to their body. Teens are self-absorbed, and having their bodies disabled or disfigured from alcohol isn’t something they will want. A simple talk about this could be all they need to hear.
Ask a friend of theirs that they respect to talk to them if they aren’t listening to you. Words from a pier often have more impact than words from a parent.
Seek professional teen alcohol treatment intervention or check with the school district to see what they offer in alcohol education and intervention.
Enroll your child in a rehabilitation center if they admit they have a problem.
Take your child to the doctor or other medical provider that can talk with them about alcohol addiction.
Eliminate and remove all alcohol in your home, and don’t bring it in anymore.
Be an example that you want them to embody.
What is the best way to help them get treatment and recovery?
If talking with the teen hasn’t helped, stage an intervention with their family and friends, same as you with an adult. As their guardian, you have the legal ability to enter them into a treatment facility if the intervention didn’t help. It would help if you also looked at both inpatient and outpatient treatment options, focusing on a unique program for their issue to get the most benefits possible. The treatment should encompass alcohol abuse and their academics, social standing, and creative and personal issues.
How can you make sure they stay sober in the future?
The best thing you can do to help your teen stay sober in the future is to stay involved with them. Keep that line of communication with honest and open conversations about alcohol and life in general. Other things you can do are:
1) Keep The Teen Busy – Help them find a job and sign them up to volunteer in the community. Busy hands make busy minds! Here in Los Angeles, that’s not hard to do either!
2) Healthy Hobbies – Keep your teen active with healthy extracurricular activities that will make them accountable to other people outside the family.
3) Minimize Screen Time – Limit the amount of time they have on the computer, television, and cell phone. Too much technology is dangerous and can erode mental health, causing anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
4) Consider treatment – If your teenager is struggling with alcohol abuse, don’t let up with treatment at any point.
5) Family Fun – Let your teenager choose the activity for the whole family on a weeknight or a weekend. Even if it isn’t your preference, go for it as long as it’s healthy and safe. You may enjoy it more than you realize.
Teenage drinking is a severe problem in our country today, and the consequences affect everyone, not just the teenager. Underage drinking can affect everyone—regardless of age or drinking status.