Teen alcohol use is a long-standing problem, and it’s not without casualties. According to a recent article from the Huffington Post, more than five thousand American teens die each year because of underage drinking–from drinking and driving fatalities, homicides, suicide, and injuries such as falls, burns and drowning’s. Additionally, teen drinking often leads to heavier drug use such as marijuana and cocaine. While the problem may seem hopeless, there are in fact a number of things that parents can do to stop teen alcohol use.
So, how do we stop what many call ‘the teen drink?’
Using Communication to Stop Teen Alcohol Use
Teens are bombarded with alcohol advertising on a daily basis. Commercials, magazines, Internet ads, social media, movies and music make drinking a glamorous affair. Unfortunately, this is often the only thing teens hear about alcohol. Many parents feel that it would be futile to talk to their children about drinking, but in fact a number of studies show that it is a heart-to-heart with their parents that teens remember most when being faced with a decision about drinking.
Talk to your child about alcohol. Talk about the ads on TV, the images presented in movies, and the messages sent in music. Talk about why they are appealing, and give them the truth about drinking. Share personal experiences and have them listen to others’ accounts of the devastating effects of alcohol. There is no shortage.
Do not wait until high school. Bring it up in Middle School, when they are still talking to you with frankness. Make it safe to discuss it openly, to ask questions, to make observations. Don’t just leave the conversation at a firm, “don’t drink.” Ask what their friends are doing and saying about the subject; talk about peer pressure, both online and in school; and you may even want to try role-play so they are prepared for a variety of situations.
Stopping Drinking by Setting a Good Example
Whether you believe it or not, children look up to their parents. They follow in their footsteps. That is why the second biggest risk factor for underage drinking is a family history of drinking. If your social life involves getting drunk, or if you consistently require a drink to “unwind”, and you share your long list of excuses with your children, they will not learn to have good judgment about alcohol. Be temperate, and your children will notice.
Parents Should Set Firm Boundaries with Alcohol Use
There is a wide range of involvement when it comes to parenting. Some parents choose to remain on the sidelines, leaving it all up to their children; others are “helicopter parents”, meaning they never give their children the freedom to choose for themselves. When it comes to drinking, choose a middle ground. Do not allow an open mind with alcohol; be clear that underage drinking is not okay and is not permitted in your house. Get involved and find out whom your child is hanging out with, who their parents are, and where they stand on drinking. While your child may roll his eyes at this, there is absolutely nothing wrong with caring. At the same time, let your child know that you respect him and trust him enough to make the right decisions. Allow him to attend parties and give him freedom. Let him know that if he does slip up and experiment with alcohol, you will be there to pick him up.
Ask for Help if There Is a Drinking Problem
Parenting is not easy, and it does not come with an instruction manual. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you suspect that your child is using alcohol dangerously. There are people who are more than happy to help, such as your child’s doctor or addiction specialists. There are also a number of adolescent substance abuse programs. Do not shrug off drinking as a “part of growing up”. No matter how socially accepted it is, underage drinking is not a light matter. It may affect the rest of your child’s life.
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