Advice for Parents on Teen Drinking

Are you worried about your teenager and drinking?  In this article, Sheila O’Malley from Practical Parenting has some practical tips for parents on the subject of teen drinking.

As a parent of teenagers I am aware of the dangers of teenage drinking. As adults we need to set a good example regarding our own alcohol use. Third year (Junior Cert year in Ireland) is identified as the most vulnerable year.

Early onset of drinking linked to heavy drinking in middle age

Headstrong, The National Centre for Youth Mental Health has reported that problems are most pronounced in third and fifth year of high school. Ireland has the worst incidence of underage binge drinking in the EU. Young people who drink before the age of fifteen are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependency. 50% of 15-16 year old’s have had a drink in the past month.

Fifteen is the most vulnerable year for our teens – Delay & Distract

Fifteen year old students are facing the Junior Cert in Ireland, and it is the stage when most start drinking. The studies show that about half this age group are regular drinkers. Yet, almost half do not drink therefore; what can we do to help our young people resist peer pressure?

You might also like Helping your Teenager celebrate their Junior Cert safely

The strength of the relationship is the only real control you have over the teen

The bottom line is: A strong parent-child relationship where you believe and trust in your child.

Teens are more likely to delay drinking when they have a close, supportive tie with a parent who has had good communication with them around this issue. A good relationship with you is likely to influence your child to try to live up to your expectations.

Warm and positive parenting ensures a child’s self esteem and a feeling of being happy with themselves. All of this makes it easier to withstand peer pressure.

The opposite is also true: when the relationship between parent and teen is full of conflict or distant, the teen is more likely to use alcohol.

Firm but appropriate expectations, backed up with explanations; help them make sensible choices. If there is a history of alcoholism in the family, your child needs to know that for them, drinking carries extra risk.

You might also like Tips for Talking to your Teen about Drugs

Keep the lines of communication open

troubled-teenEstablish open communication, therefore do not preach, lecture, advise or moralise. Instead, encourage conversation by listening without interruption (something I find a challenge) by asking open ended questions. “What do you think about teen drinking?” “Why do you think teenagers drink?”

Listen without interrupting, she will feel heard and respected, and you may learn something.  Control your emotions, you may hear something you do not like, take a few deep breaths and acknowledge your feelings in an honest way.

Make every conversation a ‘win-win’ experience; if you show respect for your teen’s viewpoint, she will be more likely to show respect for yours.

Talk to your teen about alcohol facts

Give your child some facts about alcohol and good reasons not to drink. You want your child to avoid alcohol and establish consequences for breaking rules. Your values count with your child, even if they do not show it. They have probably witnessed other young people drunk and making a fool of themselves, say you want them to maintain self respect.

Drinking can be dangerous, a leading cause of teen injuries and death is drink driving. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions – so many drink as it makes them feel more relaxed and confident, but also more vulnerable to sexual assault and unprotected sex.

Underage drinking is illegal; the parents of your child’s friends may no longer permit them to associate with your child. Anyone can develop a serious alcohol problem, including a teenager.

Brainstorm difficult situations, e.g. say “if you find yourself anywhere you are not comfortable; you can call me and I will pick you up immediately – and there will be no punishment”

Practical tips around alcohol & your teen

  • A warm and loving relationship with your child
  • Good Communication so they feel they have someone to talk to
  • Your discipline (or lack of) around alcohol influences them
  • High Self Esteem helps them resist peer pressure
  • Talk ‘with’ not ‘at’ them about the danger of underage drinking
  • Give them some good reasons not to drink (cost/put’s on weight etc)
  • Set clear, realistic expectations for your teens behaviour
  • Brainstorm difficult situations with them
  • Have consequences and enforce them
  • Encourage activity in sports or hobbies

Sheila O’Malley is one of Ireland’s leading Parenting experts who established Practical Parenting to offer support and training to Parents. She facilitates many corporate programs and delivers talks around personal and family wellbeing.

Have you any tips for other parents on teen drinking?  Share them in the comments below

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls