How to Explain the Dangers of Alcohol to Teens
Talking to teens about alcohol is hard but necessary. You may be tempted to avoid difficult conversations altogether, but having open talks about alcohol with your teen can decrease the risks of alcohol abuse both now and in the future.
The average young American these days has their first sip of alcohol between the ages of 11 and 13, so you may need to start a discussion earlier than you’d think. Here are a few things to consider when explaining the dangers of alcohol to your teen.
Understand the Real Risks
When you’re educating your child on underage drinking, it’s important that you yourself fully understand the range of risks, even the hidden ones. Underage drinking can have huge impacts on the future well-being of teens, so don’t forget to address both the health and social issues of alcohol.
There are certain bodily risks associated with underage drinking, including liver and/or heart problems, alcohol poisoning, and an increased likelihood of alcohol dependence later in life. Drunk driving and its consequences are also serious issues associated with drinking. When kids drink as a way to cope with mental health issues or stress, it can further exacerbate symptoms and potentially lead to social isolation.
Address Causes of Alcohol Abuse
Most teens have a reason for drinking – and sometimes it’s not always because of peer pressure at parties. Teen girls are often particularly susceptible to drinking as a way to cope with feelings of frustration and anger stemming from family problems or body image issues. Stress from school, mental health issues, and a family history of addiction can all lead to underage drinking if left unchecked.
Because there are many different factors that can lead to alcohol abuse, it’s important to cultivate an environment where your teenager can feel open with their emotions and troubles, not one where they feel they have to hide. Don’t force your teen to open up about issues they’re struggling with, but make sure they know they can come to you or see a counselor when they decide they’re ready.
Furthermore, don’t judge, start a lecture, or get angry when they do open up to you – it’s vital they know that you can comfort and support them, no matter what. Don’t let your own emotions drive your teen away.
Create a Dialogue
Teens will have lots of questions about alcohol. They also may have been subject to a lot of misinformation about it and the effects it can have. It’s best to have an ongoing dialogue about alcohol use, where your teen feels comfortable coming to you with questions they may have.
You should also do your best to explain your expectations and values surrounding alcohol. Laying down the law and simply forbidding your kid from drinking often isn’t sufficient. You have to explain the thoughts and reasoning behind your expectations, so your child can come to the same conclusion as you. Talk about your own experiences with drinking and discuss a plan of action for your teen to follow in case they end up in a situation where underage drinking is present.
No matter how well you discuss the topic, there’s always a chance your teen will drink anyways. They may tell you about it, or they may not. If you know or suspect alcohol has entered your teen’s life, then you should be on the lookout for signs of alcohol addiction. The most obvious symptoms are coming home intoxicated or suffering from hangovers, but other signs range from sudden changes in behavior to problems in school. If you need further information, here is everything you need to know about alcohol addiction.
As a parent, it can be scary to discuss alcohol with your kid. But if you approach the talk as an open, judgment-free conversation, it’ll be easier to help your teen develop a healthy, responsible approach towards drinking. And if your teen is already struggling, know that it’s always okay to seek outside help when you get in over your head.