Underage drinking laws exist for a reason. Teens are capricious most of the time, and alcohol could potentially cause no end of trouble in their systems. Aside from the physical effects of alcohol, drinking from an early age can cause systemic psychological and physiological problems such as dependency.
Despite numerous laws and warnings, teenagers may still go out drinking. Almost 25 percent of teens between 14 and 15 years old said they had at least one drink in 2019. Whether its because of peer pressure, curiosity or something else, teens may end up drinking.
Rather than ignore this potential issue, you should head off the problem and have an open dialogue with your teenagers about it. Although plenty of reliable rehabilitation clinics are around the country, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when talking to teenagers about underage drinking.
- Open Communication
The first step is to be open with them. Teenagers are naturally secretive and seek privacy in most aspects of their lives, especially with things like underage drinking and partying. Being more open can make them more receptive to conversation. When you’ve established open communication, you can broach sensitive topics and make it clear that they can talk to you about such things.
- Use Your Own Experiences
Every adult used to be a teenager once. You probably still remember studying for the SATs, your first driving lessons and going to your first high school party. Dig into your own experiences regarding underage drinking. How did you say no to peer pressure? How did your own parents talk to your about it? How would you improve the way they handled it? These can all help you have a better conversation with your own teenagers.
- Never Exaggerate
You may be tempted to exaggerate the consequences and physical effects of alcohol. Such tactics aren’t suited for a mature conversation with teenagers. Not only are exaggerated consequences easy to disprove, your teenagers may feel like your patronizing them and make it less likely that they’ll open up to you or take your warnings seriously. Do not exaggerate anything when it comes to such issues and rely on truth and sincerity.
- Make the Consequences Clear
Although you shouldn’t exaggerate the effects of alcoholism, you don’t need to. There are plenty of real and documented negative impacts associated with underage drinking. Car crashes, physical injuries and other unsavory events can all be caused by underage drinking. You should also make the consequences of underage drinking in your home perfectly clear. Maybe its grounding or two weeks of yard work, but make sure your teenagers know you disapprove, and they can expect punishment if they cross that line.
- Discuss How to Handle Peer Pressure
One of the greatest reasons teenagers may drink is because of peer pressure. Whether they want to fit in with the cool crowd or simply want to prove they’re more mature than they really are. Social factors like peer pressure are incredibly powerful, especially on teens. When talking to them about underage drinking, discuss ways on how they can say no or avoid situations entirely. Such tactics could include asking for a different beverage, telling your teen they don’t have to drink and understanding what could happen if they do drink.
- Talk Family History
Another facet of alcoholism you should bring up with your kids is if you have a family history of substance abuse. Research has established that alcoholism can be a genetic condition. If your family has a history of alcohol abuse, you should talk about it with your teens. Make them understand that they may be more susceptible to substance abuse. This could enlighten them on the consequences they could experience with underage drinking.
- Offer Support and Acceptance
Once you’re done explaining to them the possible consequences, both outside and inside your home, that teens may face for underage drinking, make it clear that you are still there for them. As a parent or parental figure, tell them you will accept and care for them even if they do slip up. Tell them that if they land into trouble that they can call for you.
For example, if they did drink, you should instruct them to call you for transportation rather than taking a cab or worse, driving themselves. Offering your support and acceptance can mean they will inform you when they need help the most.
Teenage drinking is difficult subject to broach, especially with teenagers. But openness and a willingness to communicate can help bridge the gap and establish a firm foundation on which you can guide them.