The risks and detrimental effects of alcohol abuse by young adults under the age of 25 can have life-long consequences. In a recent survey, nearly 80% of 17-18 year olds had consumed alcohol, with over 47% of these 17-18 year olds using alcohol regularly.
To help your young adult/teenager get the fullest from life, it is important to have an honest discussion about alcohol and its effects. But what do you say and how do you do it? Here is a helpful guide on how to talk to your teenager about drinking.
First, don’t expect to only have one big discussion on alcohol, the subject should come up many times as your child grows. Start young by creating regular, open, honest communications with your child. Be casual and relaxed. Be open to what your teen says, truly listen. Keep your emotions in check (remember deep breaths if you hear something upsetting or irritating). If your child feels comfortable talking with you, your discussions will be more effective.
Once you have good regular communications, you can begin to discuss alcohol.
- Start with asking what your teen thinks about alcohol? What does s/he know about it? If your teen has used alcohol, calmly asked what they thought? Why they used it? What was the result?
- Share facts about alcohol. It is a powerful drug. Regular drinking by teenagers can create many problems: teens have the highest rate of traffic accidents and alcohol use increases these risks; drinking affects coordination, the ability to think and make decisions; teens who drink are more likely to be the victim of violence; as well as experience longer term injury or damage to their brain. Point out the teen brain is still developing and alcohol affects normal development.
- Talk about any perceived attractions or myths about drinking: Does your teen feel peer pressure to drink? Do they think drinking will let them be more social or fit in better? Discuss alcohol commercials on TV and ads in magazines, where everyone is fit, beautiful, having fun. What do they think alcohol will do or does do for them?
- Point out that alcohol is a depressant and although it may seem to provide happy or pleasant feelings, these feelings don’t last and often people feel down, sad or even depressed after drinking.
- Drinking is illegal, and there are serious consequences for teens arrested for drinking alcohol.
- Be prepared to discuss your own drinking and history. Your teen will likely ask. Even if they don’t, it is best if you volunteer things you learned about drinking. Share consequences you have experienced from drinking.
- Also discuss any family history with drinking. If you have a family history of alcoholism, let your teen know that this means s/he is much more likely to become addicted, its in the family genes.
- Ask about your teen’s friends. What do they think about drinking or drugs? Do they drink? Has your teen had any experience with people drinking?
All this may not happen in one conversation. Always thank your child for the talk and for sharing. Appreciate their insights and their honesty. It is important to let them speak and feel open with you, but do not blur the lines on the parent/child relationship. Never allow your teenager to drinking at your house. It is illegal and it portrays the wrong message. Never drink with your teenager, even at family gatherings, its illegal, inappropriate, and damaging to their health.
Finally, be a role model. Your actions speak much louder to your teen than words. If you drink, do so in moderation. When discussing alcohol, don’t state it is good or helpful. Also emphasize that for those older than 21 and particularly over 25 experience less brain impairment from alcohol. Discuss the rules you have for yourself: never drinking and driving, setting limits on your own drinking either by quantity or days or amount of time, only drinking with friends or family, etc.
If you know or suspect your teen has a problem with alcohol, there are resources available that can help you and your teen. Early interventions are proven to be a helpful resource for many teenagers. If your teenager is over 18 years old, you may schedule an appointment with New Hope Recovery Center for a confidential assessment.
Written by: New Hope Recovery Center
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