• Teen Alcohol Use

    Experimenting is a normal part of adolescence

    Experimentingis a normal part of adolescence, but when it involves risky behaviorsor substances such as alcohol, parents need to step in. Drinking underthe age of 21 is illegal in the United States, and drinking duringadolescence can affect your teens brain development since it is stillmaturing. Alcohol use in adolescents is also linked to an increase inviolent crime, school and social problems, and car accidents. It isimportant for you as a parent to know the facts about alcohol, warningsigns of alcohol use, and ways to help your child if you discover thatshe is consuming alcohol. Most importantly, keep the lines ofcommunication open, because research shows that teens that have closeand supportive relationships with their parents are less likely tostart drinking at a young age.

    Prevent alcohol abuse by encouraging positive behaviors

    Build a strong, open relationship with your teen.
    You are the person your child looks up to the most, even though you maynot think so at times. As your child becomes a teenager, he needsone-on-one time with you even more. Set clear expectations for yourchild and establish family rules for drinking, with appropriateconsequences. Finally, understand that your child is growing up, andalthough you may have less control over him, he still needs yourguidance and support.

    Take an interest in your teens life. Getto know your childs friends parents. This will help you keep a closertab on your teen and make sure you and other parents are on the samepage about rules. Also, be aware of your childs whereabouts andencourage her to participate in after-school activities. Activities andhobbies can keep kids busy and help them form healthy relationships.

    Be a role model. Researchshows that if a parent uses alcohol, her child is more likely to beginusing alcohol. So, limit your drinking, and show your child healthyways to cope with the stresses of life.

    Talk to your teen about alcohol. Bringup the topic by finding out your childs views on alcohol use. Commenton a sports star pictured drinking or a television show that showsdrinking as cool. Then share with your child important facts aboutalcohol, such as:
    • Alcohol impairs coordination; slows reaction time; and affects vision, clear thinking and judgment.
    • It takes 2-3 hours for a single drink to leave your system, and nothing can speed up that process.
    • Itcan be difficult to judge how seriously alcohol affects someone. So,although an individual may think he can control a car, he actuallycannot.
    • Anyone can develop a serious alcohol problem, even a teenager.
    • Alcohol is involved in over half of all violent deaths of teenagers.
    Know what to look out for. Evenif you think you are overreacting or that these are normal signs ofteenage behavior, talk to a professional if you are worried or see morethan one of the following things in your teens behavior:
    • Changes in mood, such as irritability and defensiveness.
    • Changes in school including increased absences, falling grades, and decreased interest in succeeding at school.
    • Social changes including new friends and increased late-night activities.
    • Changesin behavior such as loss of interest in activities or hobbies that onceinterested your child; lower energy levels; lying about friends andwhereabouts; and withdrawal from family.
    • Physical changes such as blackouts, bloodshot eyes, weight changes, unexplained injuries, frequent headaches, and nausea.
    Have a plan for how to say no.Even though your child may not believe this, over 2/3 of teens age 12 17 choose not to drink. If your teens friends drink, there may bepressure for him to drink alcohol, too. Most of the time, his friendsmay be more accepting than he thinks. The best way to refuse alcohol isto just say no in a firm way by standing up straight, making eyecontact, and not making excuses. However, if your child feelsuncomfortable saying no or feels as if she would offend her friends,offer them alternative ways to resist peer pressure. Talk about waysfor your teen to handle situations in which alcohol is involved. Forexample, let her know that if she finds herself at a party where peopleare drinking, she can call you and youll pick her up, no questionsasked. Be supportive of your child, and let her know that youll bethere when she needs you.

    Thisinformation was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, One Tough Job Manager, andreviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Childrens TrustFund.