Alcoholism among teens is a serious problem. Three out of four students have consumed alcohol by the time they graduate high school. More than half of high school seniors report being drunk at least once in their life. More than two-fifths of students have consumed alcohol by the fifth grade.
Teenage alcoholism leads to adult dependence. Adolescents who consume alcoholic beverages before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol addiction than those who start drinking at the legal drinking age of 21, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Fortunately, teen alcoholism is on the decline. Parents and caregivers can play pivotal roles in helping to prevent teenage alcoholism through thoughtful, ongoing conversations about the short-term risks of underage drinking and the life-long consequences of alcohol abuse and dependence.
Maintaining an open, two-way dialogue can help youth resist peer pressure, curiosity and other risky behaviors that may lead to underage drinking.
Tips For Talking to Teens
Parents and caregivers can use the following tips to talk to their teens about alcohol.
Teenagers whose parents talk to them about alcohol and drugs are 42% less likely to use them than teens whose parents don’t discuss the issues with them.
Start talking to your child before they reach their teens. Pre-teens and even younger children can benefit from learning about alcohol and alcohol abuse. This may prevent teenage alcoholism.
If you don’t know much about alcoholism among teens, take some time to learn the facts. That way you can give your child accurate information.
Don’t lecture your teen or tell them to “just say no.” Have a two-way conversation instead.
Encourage your teen to talk by asking open-ended questions. These are questions that require more than a yes or no answer. “What do you think about drinking alcohol?” or “What do kids at school say about drinking?”
You can use television shows as a way to initiate a conversation with your child about alcoholism among teens. When there is a show that features young people drinking, ask “What do you think about that?” You can also discuss alcoholism among teens when it appears in popular magazines. (For this to work, you need to watch what your child watches, and read what they read - a good idea anyway).
In order for your teen to talk to you, you have to be a good listener. Don’t interrupt, and don’t judge. Your child needs to know he or she won’t get in trouble for being honest with you.
Keep the lines of communication open. The first conversation you have with your child about teenage alcoholism should not also be the last.
Help your child find good role models, and be one yourself. If you drink, do so responsibly. Don’t drink and drive, and don’t overindulge.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about drinking. It might feel uncomfortable for both of you, but it’s worth it.
Please feel free to write to us if you have any questions about how to talk to your child about teenage alcoholism.