Armor? Firewalls? Deadbolts? There’s no better defense than you- the parents- when it comes to teens and alcohol.
It might make you squirm, but recognizing that alcohol is a big problem amongst teenagers will help you educate and protect your teen. In most cases, it’s not difficult for teenagers to obtain alcohol. Peer pressure, social gathers, and newfound freedom create the perfect storm for underage drinking. So what can parents do to protect their teens?
Parents: The First Line of Defense
Sometimes a conversation with your teen might feel like a battle, but you don’t need an army to protect them. Your best line of defense when it comes to raising a teen is improving and understanding your role as their parent.
- Set Expectations AND a Good Example
Make the rules clear and be consistent with enforcement and consequences. Family rules apply to everyone. Your child is watching you. You don’t need to abstain from drinking, but be responsible.
- Experimentation is dangerous
“Kids being kids” and messing around with alcohol or drugs is not a rite of passage. It can lead to addiction, car accidents, sexual assault, and injuries.
- Consider your family history and other risk factors
Addiction and substance misuse can run in families. Know your history and talk with your teen about it. Anxiety, depression, ADHD, and aggressive behaviors are also risk factors for alcohol abuse.
- Intelligence does not equal maturity
Even the brightest kids in school get sucked into drinking parties and bad decisions. Teen brains are prone to taking risks. Don’t assume your straight A student will always make the right decision.
- Address your teen’s mental health & seek help
According to the Prevention Action Alliance, over two-thirds of teens who struggle with substance abuse also struggle with mental health disorders including depression and anxiety. If you believe your teen has a problem with substance misuse, reach out to a doctor or psychiatrist to get your child the help he or she needs. Only 13 percent of kids ever receive professional help.
Teens sometimes struggle with alcohol even when parents are well educated and involved in their child’s life. Don’t dwell on the past- it will only stir up feelings of guilt and shame. Focus on the present and get your teen the help he or she needs to heal.