Teenagers Drink. NOW WHAT?

Kids Are Going to Drink! 

Now, What?

If you hear that once, you are going to hear that 100 times as a parent of a teen.  What is that?  Some kind of justification for no parenting, bad parenting, bad behavior, breaking the law, drinking and driving, starting a lifelong addiction, alcohol poisoning, a fatal car wreck?  The list goes on and on.  And the consequences are a little more dire than "kids are gonna do what they do. "

Yes, most likely, kids are going to drink.  But, you don’t have to be a part of it. 

You don’t have to expect it, You don’t have to condone it.  You can actually teach them how to responsibly do it.  Don’t bury your head in the sand.  Don’t say, “I trust my child.”  Trust him to do what?  You have just as much influence over your teen and your teen’s group of friends as anyone else.  Use it.  At least don’t aid and abet.  

First off, start early.  If you social drink, talk to your kids about social drinking.  One concept that I think is genius is differentiating between drinking with food and drinking to get drunk. 

Social drinking vs. binge drinking.  Drinking as a social pleasure vs. drinking to follow along, to get drunk. 

As is my cardinal rule, never talk about what you did when you were a teenager!  That is irrelevant.  You may think it makes you look cool.  You may think its funny.  Its not.  Save those stories for your OLD drinking buddies when your kids are no where in sight.  We grew up in different times and you may not be the best teen role model. Kids emulate their parents in both good and bad ways.

The most important thing is to let them know that you know that kids drink and of course, the opportunity will come up.  But, it IS illegal and will have consequences, whether yours or the judges.  Put down the edict for absolutely no drinking and driving and never get in a car with a driver that has.  They need to know that they can call you anytime they feel uncomfortable and you will come and get them, no questions asked. You can always discuss the situation the next day.  Have them think through situations in advance, and talk about different ways to handle it.  Practice role playing.  If they don’t feel comfortable getting in a car, they might say, “I’d like to drive.”  Or they can say, “Thanks for the ride, but I’m gonna stay a little longer or I’m going with someone else.” 

I’ve even had my grown children get in a car with an inebriated driver, ask to be dropped off somewhere closer and then someone else come pick them up.  I’ve picked up my children a block down from where the party was, so no one knew their parents were picking them up.  They learned.  When I was a young teen, I found myself at a party with drinking and drugs going on.  Not knowing what to do, I called my big brother.  He told me to put a coke in my hands and he'd be there in 10 minutes.  When he got there, he came on in for a few minutes and then asked my if I wanted to go to another party he knew of.  Voila, quick exit. Situation handled. 

Never, ever provide alcohol to underage drinkers!!  That saying that “I would rather them drink in my house” is crap.  Nothing good comes of that. 

Nowadays, parents are being held accountable for incidents that happen at their houses where alcohol is served and I’m glad to see it.  Parents, be vigilant and have your kids be vigilant. Find out at which houses drinking goes on.  Talk to other parents about it.  Tell other parents you want to know. I have had parents call me and tell me that their child was at a party, alcohol was being served, and one of friend’s children was there and I might want to tell them.  Of course I did.  I very casually called up that friend and said that I would be a little careful about their child going to parties at that house.  Didn’t make a big deal about it.  Didn’t get anyone in trouble.  Everyone can read between the lines.

Parents have to stick together on this.  There were houses that my girls were not allowed to go to for any reason because I knew the parents did not supervise and out of control situations happened there.  They knew to not even ask if they could go.  That didn’t mean I didn’t like those kids.  I did, and was glad to have them to my house.  Or be with them on school or church trips.  I’ll never forget the day my youngest daughter announced, “Well, Ms. Smith (a neighbor) is quite upset that Sarah (her daughter) was arrested yesterday for underage drinking.  Doesn’t she know that you never go over to Tom Wilson’s house?  Especially for a "supposed" barbeque at three o’clock in the afternoon when no parents are going to be there?” 

Yay for me!  I had made my points.