Talking to Teens About the Effects of Drinking

Underage drinking attracts many teens and adolescents. When young people begin experimenting with alcohol, they do not realize the effects drinking can have on their lives and families. Underage drinking should not be an avoidable topic of discussion. You should talk to your child about the risks of underage drinking, the importance of making good decisions and encourage your child to avoid alcohol. Some reasons your teen may begin drinking is to cope with stress or when dealing with challenging transitions. Examples include going from middle school to high school, moving to a new area, or parents' divorce. Teens have trouble understanding that their actions can be extremely harmful, especially since their brains are not yet fully developed and their behaviors as an adolescent will shape their future behaviors. No matter how much you believe your teen will not be influenced or how "good" you perceive them to be at avoiding peer pressure, no young person is immune to exposure to something as seemingly harmless as having a single drink. As a parent you should be aware of the following warning signs:
  • The group of friends your teen keeps changes
  • Your teen experiences a loss of interest in activities
  • You notice your teen has academic or behavioral problems in school
It can be difficult to talk to your teen about underage drinking. You might be scared that they will not listen or care. You may also be unsure of what to say. To increase the your chances of having the healthiest and most constructive conversion with your teen about alcohol and underage drinking you should choose a time when you and your child are both relaxed. Covering all topics in one conversation does not have to happen and is not the best way to ensure your teen gets the message you are trying to share. Introducing the discussion on a multitude of occasions will have a greater impact on your teen. So what topics should you discuss? You might:
  • Ask your teen's views. Find out what your teen knows and thinks about alcohol.
  • Discuss reasons not to drink. Try avoiding scare tactics. Simply explain the risks and appeal to your teen's self-respect. If your family has a history of alcoholism or drinking problems, be honest with them.
  • Be prepared to discuss your own drinking. Your teen might ask if you drank alcohol when you were underage. If you chose not to drink, explain why. If you chose to drink, you might share an example of a negative consequence of your drinking at that age.
If you suspect that your teen has been drinking, talk to them before it gets out of hand. Teens who have alcohol problems aren't likely to realize it or seek help on their own. Remember, it's never too soon to start talking to your teen about underage alcohol use. For more information on teen drinking, its effects or to learn about how to deal with it if it's something your teen is involved in, please contact us. Our therapists can help you navigate the conversation and introduce therapies that help teens who already have a problem with drinking. For more information regarding our teen counseling program, click here.