Underage Drinking: 9 Helpful Tips for Parents

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I recently read an article about a 16-year-old girl who died due to complications from alcohol. The story was devastating, and my heart broke for her family. The article pointed out some rather disturbing statistics regarding underage drinking and led me to start doing some of my own research.

underage-drinking-1-19-16One of the main problems with underage drinking today is that many teens participate in “binge drinking,” much like the 16 year old who lost her life. Instead of having a beer or two, kids now are drinking to get drunk -- which means they are quickly consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time.

While the facts and stories of underage drinking are sobering (pun intended), knowing them is simply not enough to prevent a tragedy. Here are nine ways you can help prevent underage drinking with your own kids:

  1. Stay connected with your teen. Despite extracurricular activities, busy schedules and family responsibilities, teens need to stay connected to us, their parents. Schedule time with them, have dinner as a family and check in with them regularly. The more connected they feel to their parents the less likely teens are to make choices they know their parents wouldn't support.
  2. Regularly discuss drinking. Just like “the sex talk,” the discussion on drinking should be an ongoing conversation. This allows teens to feel safe and comfortable to continue asking questions as new issues arise. "One and done" does not cover the many facets of this issue facing young people.
  3. Make sure your kids know how you feel about underage drinking -- as well as the consequences. Communicate regularly that you do not support underage drinking. Make this message well known in your home -- not in a hounding, negative way, but in a supportive, loving one. “We love you so much that we don’t want to see you drink. We want to protect you.” Set clear consequences if this rule is broken as well.
  4. Know where your child will be and with whom. Unfortunately, many teens will lie and sneak around in order to drink. Worse yet, some parents think it’s okay to allow their teens to drink at home, as well as other people’s children. Make sure you know where your teens are and whom they are with, including the parents supervising them.
  5. Monitor social media. Social media is a whole ‘nother world for teens where they will share, confess and openly discuss things that they might not communicate in person. Periodically pop in on your teens social media accounts to make sure drinking, and any other negative behavior for that matter, isn’t happening.
  6. Role play. Some teens might resist this as “nerdy,” but it can really be helpful. Practice with your kids, with you as the aggressive partying kid and them having to turn down alcohol. Sometimes in the midst of peer pressure, teens freeze up and don’t know what to say, but a little practice and a simple script can help them say, “No thank you,” without sacrificing their cool status.
  7. Educate yourself about underage and binge drinking. There are some great resources for parents out there on the topic of teen drinking. The more you know, the better able you will be to identify and hopefully prevent such behavior.
  8. Be an example. It’s one thing to enjoy a glass of wine or beer with dinner, but if your kids have witnessed you as a parent over drink from time to time, they lock those images away in their mind. Set a good example as a responsible drinker (if you drink). They will take notice.
  9. Stay diligent. Never assume that your teen is out of the woods or not susceptible to the pressure or practice of binge or underage drinking. The 16-year-old girl who lost her life was a responsible student, daughter and friend who made one bad choice.  Remaining diligent regarding this topic is one of the best ways we can love our teens.
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