Talking to Teens About Drinking

Most teens have tried alcohol by the time they finish high school, so don’t wait until you suspect a problem to start talking to your teens about drinking. The direct, honest approach usually works best. Ask your children if they or their friends have tried alcohol. Do they understand the effects of alcohol on judgment, reaction time, and behavior? Do they avoid drinking and driving? Do they know that alcohol can be addictive? (This is of special concern if there is a history of problem drinking in family members or relatives, since this tendency may be inherited.) Also, take a look at your own drinking behavior–you can be sure that your children will.

If you suspect your child may have a drinking problem, devise a plan of action. The following strategies may help:

  • Don’t respond with angry accusations, since this will only make your child defensive and rebellious.
  • If your teen comes home intoxicated, wait until the next morning to discuss it.
  • Explain that you are concerned for his or her health and safety, and that you want to help.
  • Offer your understanding and support.
  • Listen to your teen’s concerns; some teens don’t want to drink, but are afraid of their peers’ disapproval.
  • Help your teen handle peer pressure by suggesting ways to respond.