About one-third of teens have had at least one alcoholic beverage by age 15, and that percentage nearly doubles by age 18, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
You may think, “not my kid,” but young people abuse alcohol more than any other substance and, even if your child is not the one doing the drinking, there is still exposure.
“The consequences of underage drinking can affect everyone — regardless of age or drinking status,” the NIAAA says. “We all feel the effects of the aggressive behavior, property damage, injuries, violence, and deaths that can result from underage drinking. This is not simply a problem for some families — it is a nationwide concern.”
Unfortunately, 10 percent of high school students drink and drive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which can have deadly consequences.
As a parent, you may feel powerless to protect your teen from the dangers of alcohol, but there are things you can do.
Talk to your child
The No. 1 reason teens say they don’t drink alcohol or use tobacco and drugs is their parents, according to an article on the Drug Abuse and Comprehensive Coordinating Office website.
“Parents who develop an open trusting communication link between themselves and their teens help their teens to refuse offers to use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs,” the article says. “If a young person feels comfortable talking openly with their parent, the parent has a better chance of guiding him or her toward healthy decision-making.”
Many resources are available to help parents talk to their kids. For example, the NIAAA offers ideas to parents, and the National Institute on Drug abuse has a website you and your teen can explore together.
No matter what you do, listen to your teen without interrupting and give honest answers to questions.
Be the wall
When it comes to your teens looking for alcohol, be the wall that prevents them from finding it. With the help of the Be The Wall campaign, you can influence young people’s attitudes and behaviors regarding underage drinking. You can use social media to connect with other parents and see ideas that will help you to help your child.
“As a community and as parents we can be the biggest influence on youth if we communicate about making the right decision when it comes to alcohol or drugs,” bethewalltampa.com says. “We can empower teens to make positive choices when they know healthy guidelines and expectations surrounding alcohol and drug use.”
One way you can be the wall is to host safe parties for teens. Here are a few tips Be The Wall recommends:
- Use a location with clear entrances, and block entrances you don’t want used.
- Work with your teen to make a guest list. Limit the number of attendees.
- State a beginning and end time on the invitation.
- Ask teens to leave purses or bags in their locked cars or at the front door.
- Lock up alcohol, and ask adults attending the party to leave alcohol at home.
- Provide a variety of entertainment, including TV, swimming, video games, karaoke and so on.
- Provide hang out space you can see without hovering.
- Use single-serve soda cans instead of disposable cups.
- Monitor behavior by circulating and interacting with teens. Decide with your teen ahead of time how to deal with suspicious behavior.
- Never let an impaired teen leave your home.
Ask for help when you need it
In addition to taking advantage of the information and connections available through Be The Wall, you have options if you are concerned about your teen’s alcohol use. Check out the resources available to you on dacco.org. DACCO is a facility that focuses on drug and alcohol prevention, intervention and treatment. The expert physicians are board certified in addiction medicine and the staff is qualified and committed to enabling your child to achieve lifelong recovery.