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Advice for Parents Responding to Teenage Drinking

by Amy Morin

If you discover that your teenager has been experimenting with alcohol, your response can be a major factor in determining the likelihood that your teen will engage in underage drinking again. According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, "Adults' Approval and Adolescents' Alcohol Use," a parent's attitude plays an important role in deterring underage drinking. Respond to a teenager's drinking by showing your disapproval in a loving, yet firm manner to discourage further experimentation with alcohol.

Educate Your Teen about Alcohol

Sometimes parents avoid talking to teenagers about alcohol out of embarrassment or uncertainty about what to say. Although your child might try to dodge the conversation, have an open and direct discussion about the dangers of drinking. According to the Mayo Clinic, parents should avoid scare tactics when discussing alcohol. A conversation that appeals to your teenager's self-respect is likely to be most effective. If you drink alcohol, model appropriate behavior and discuss the reasons why underage drinking is problematic.

Establish Rules

Set clear rules about drinking and attending parties. Discuss your expectations about what your child should do if alcohol is served at a party or if another teenager wants to drive after consuming alcohol. Explain the consequences for breaking the rules. Keep close tabs on your teenager's activities. Become familiar with your child's friends and communicate with other parents to ensure your child will be supervised and that alcohol will not be served at parties.

Remove Privileges

Teenagers may need a consequence to deter them from drinking again. Take away privileges for a specific period of time. For a first offense, remove a major privilege or two, such as driving privileges or activities with friends. If it is a second offense, take away other privileges, such as cell phone privileges and computer privileges. Develop a contract that states how your teenager can earn the privileges back by showing responsibility with chores, homework and telling the truth.

Seek Professional Help

Despite appropriate attempts to prevent and respond to underage drinking, sometimes teenagers will still choose to use alcohol. According to the American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry, parents should be on the lookout for warning signs of serious substance abuse problems. Warning signs can include declining grades, truancy, mood changes, isolation or social problems. Consult your child's physician or a mental health professional if you have concerns that your teenager might have a problem with alcohol.

About the Author

Amy Morin has been writing about parenting, relationships, health and lifestyle issues since 2009. Her work appears in many print and online publications, including Mom.me and Global Post. Morin works as a clinical therapist and a college psychology instructor. Morin received her Master of Social Work from the University of New England.

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