Addressing Alcohol Abuse in Teens

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Alcohol abuse in teens can be a touchy subject. According to, nearly 75% of teens have consumed alcohol by the end of high school, and underage drinkers are responsible for over 11% of the alcohol consumed in the United States. If you’re the parent of a teen or have a teen in your life, these statistics can be nerve-wracking. Talking to teens about alcohol can have a major impact on their lives, but how should you go about doing it?

Alcohol Abuse in Teens: Approaching Your Teenager

Start early

Each parent will make up their own decisions about when to talk to their children about alcohol, but it’s not a good idea to wait until the senior prom to have that first discussion. Consider talking to your child when they are between the ages of 10 and 14, when they are less likely to be exposed to alcohol experimentation among their peers. Keep the conversation age-appropriate, and go deeper as your child matures.

Foster open communication

For some reason, talking about alcohol abuse in teens is an uncomfortable subject. Teens feel awkward and parents may worry that bringing up the topic could frighten their child off. Establish open conversation from the beginning, and let your teen know they can come to you with any concerns or questions. Don’t gloss over the issue of alcohol abuse, but bring it up and discuss it.

Set boundaries and stick to them

Sit down as a family and make your teen aware of the house rules and the consequences for breaking them. Don’t waver on the rules but stand firm. If you suspect alcohol abuse in teens between your child and their friends, address the topic. If necessary, implement the consequences for rule breaking as necessary. Above all, remember that you are a constant example to your teen, and they may be modeling their behavior off of yours.

Discuss the consequences

Many teens are not fully informed on the consequences that come with alcohol abuse in teens. These could include drink driving accidents, risky sexual behavior, violence, damaged reputations, and health problems. Try to avoid frightening your child with these discussions, but make the possible consequences clear. You could refer to news stories, YouTube videos, or magazine articles. Look for ways to get through to your teen and break the mentality of “it can’t happen to me.”

Build your child’s confidence

Peer pressure and fitting in is a large part of why alcohol abuse in teens is such a prevalent issue. As teens go through physical and emotional changes as part of growing up, they may be more susceptible to worrying what others think of them. Low self-esteem and insecurity may inform your child’s behavior, and they may need moral support now more than ever. It can be tough to get through to a teen, but provide unwavering support and encouragement, and applaud their achievements both in and out of school. You never know when they might be listening, and confident teens may have an easier time saying no to alcohol.