Many parents underestimate the dangers alcohol poses to teenagers, it is the most used drug by youth and the biggest drug problem teenagers face today.
Alcohol poisoning, car crashes, homicides, and suicides are among the increased risks teens face when they’ve been drinking. Most teens experiment with alcohol, although parents might want to believe their teen would never drink, it’s more likely they will at least try it once. It’s important that you have conversations with your teenager about the dangers of underage drinking as well as the risks of addiction.
Underage drinking is a significant public health problem. In recent years, researchers found that among high school students:
- Nearly 1 in 3 drink alcohol.
- Almost 1 in 5 have ridden in a car with a driver who has been drinking alcohol.
- One in 20 have driven after drinking alcohol.
A teenager’s decision to drink is typically linked to the following factors:
– Peer pressure. Everyone is doing it! This is where your conversations with your teen are helpful, you can discuss strategies about how to handle peer pressure.
How to help teens handle peer pressure:
“I’ve tried it, I don’t like it much.”
“If I get caught my parents will remove my phone.”
“I’m grounded if I’m caught.”
“I have a lot of homework.”
– Stress and anxiety. Since 2020 teen stress, anxiety and depression has doubled. Young people are finding escapes — self-medicating is one of them. Academic stress is another concern they carry, as well as stress over puberty or popularity.
-Trauma. Transitions that are happening (usually beyond their control) that a teen isn’t mature enough yet — emotionally — to handle on their own. Such as, a parent’s divorce, moving to a new school, breaking up with a significant other or close friend, a death in the family or close friend.
It’s normal for you to feel upset, angry, and worried if you discovered your teen is drinking. Using alcohol at a young age can impact how a teen’s brain develops, disrupts their sleep patterns, delay puberty, make it harder to concentrate at school — and can put their overall health at risk. Underage drinking can have serious implications that may not show up until later in life — so it’s imperative that you address the problem immediately.
3 Tips for Talking to Your Teen About Underage Drinking
1. Have a conversation, don’t lecture. Talking to your teen about underage drinking should be at a time when your teen hasn’t been drinking. You should both be calm and focused, as well as device free.
Your teen wants to feel understood and heard, so even if you don’t like or agree with what they are saying, it’s important to listen withhold criticism. They may believe it’s okay to have a beer at a keg party, but you must remain calm until they are done talking and then explain the reasons why this not okay. Which will likely end in them not being allowed to attend that party – or parties with alcohol.
2. Discuss the reasons not to drink. Most teenagers believe they are invincible, so explaining the long-term health dangers of underage drinking will likely not dissuade them from drinking. Instead, talk to your teen about the effects drinking can have on their appearance—bad breath, bad skin, and weight gain from all the empty calories and carbs. You can also talk about how drinking makes people do embarrassing things, like peeing themselves or throwing up.
In today’s digital world it comes back to their online reputation. If they are applying to colleges, never doubt it will have an impact on their admissions, especially if they are seeking scholarships in sports or academics. Research has shown the majority of college admissions will scour social media feeds for those digital embarrassing moments, and will remove candidates from their lists. Your teen may not take the picture, but you never know who at the party is taking pictures and posting them online.
3. Drunk driving — kills. It’s a message that can’t be emphasized enough. If your teen decides to go out and have a drink — it’s a mistake that can be rectified. If they drink and then drive or get into a vehicle driven by someone else who’s been drinking, that mistake could be a fatal one—for them or someone else. Be sure they always have an alternative means of getting home, whether that’s a taxi, a ride share service, or calling you to pick them up.
It’s never easy talking about tough topics, but it must be an ongoing conversation. Things can change quickly in a teenager’s life, so always keep making time to talk about what going on with them — both offline and online. Ask questions and keep setting a good example for responsible alcohol use.
Is your teen drinking? Have you exhausted your local resources? Contact us for a free consultation to learn about how therapeutic boarding could help your teen and family.