How To Address Underage Drinking with Kids
Mental Health/Wellness

How To Address Underage Drinking with Kids

You’ve talked to your kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. You’ve done your best to set a good example. And then they came home drunk. What do you do?

As you might have guessed, freaking out and grounding your child isn’t the best solution. It’s simply not going to work. We’ve all been there, right? Did it work when your parents grounded you? Probably not.

Kids experiment with drugs and alcohol for a variety of reasons. One such reason is that their friends are doing it. It’s about peer pressure.

So to get through to your kids who have tried alcohol, it’s better to start a conversation about what they’ve done. Here are a few ideas for addressing underage drinking:

  1. Set clear ground rules

If you haven’t already, make your rules and expectations clear. If there are consequences to breaking the rules, as there should be, make those clear as well.

If you feel it’s necessary, write them down and post them somewhere where your teen will see them every day. Yes, children should know it’s not going to be acceptable to come home stumbling drunk, but let nothing go unspoken.

  1. Address it the next day

If your teenager comes home drunk, this is not the time to address the problem. Your child is in no shape to have the conversation. In fact, their drunken state is likely to make them hostile, which can make the conversation go downhill fast.

As difficult as it may be for you, don’t address it when it happens. You can say something like, “Go to bed and we’ll talk about this in the morning.” Just don’t forget to address it. Ignoring the action is the same thing as condoning it.

  1. Cut off their supply

If you haven’t done this already, lock up all the alcohol in your home. If your child gets an allowance, put it on hold as a consequence of their behavior. This may stop them from buying alcohol themselves. And finally, limit unsupervised time with their friends.

There’s no need to go into full-on dictator mode if this is the first or second offense. Let your teen continue to hang out with friends (after any potential punishments are lifted), but try to make sure they don’t have quite as much free time. You may enroll them into an afterschool program or shorten their curfew.

  1. Ask why they’re drinking

It’s such a simple question, but it’s one that’s often overlooked. It can be especially effective when it’s your child’s first experience with alcohol. Oftentimes, the answer is peer pressure. If that’s what they tell you, this is a great opportunity to talk about how damaging peer pressure can be and how our decisions can haunt us for a lifetime.

  1. Talk about family history

If you have had trouble with alcoholism, be open and honest about your experience. Talk about your low moments and how alcoholism has affected your life. This is a great time to reinforce the negative effects of peer pressure. Your child may not realize that he may still be dealing with the ramifications of caving to peer pressure long after these friendships have ended.

  1. Talk about getting help

If your child is showing a pattern of getting drunk, she may be in the early stages of alcoholism. It can happen in the teens and early 20s. If this is the case, your child may need treatment, but it should be her idea.

For now, just talk about the benefits of treatment and find an alcohol treatment center that specializes in teenagers. When she’s ready to get help, the treatment is much more likely to be effective. On the other hand, if you think she’s a danger to herself or someone else, you may be able to admit her without her consent. Call a local rehab center to discuss your options.

If your teenager is drinking, try not to panic. We have all been there, so we can understand the steps that brought the teen to drink. Your job now is to support your child’s health and encourage them to take up other activities that may keep them away from drinking.


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