Knowing that your teenage daughter or son is drinking alcohol can be quite heartbreaking for any parent. When such is the case, the first thing you need to do is allow this reality to sink in before taking any steps.
Once you have accepted this reality, the next thing to focus on is to understand your teen’s drinking problem to identify how you can help him/her out.
It is important that you do not accept a teen’s drinking behavior as normal. This is because the problem can escalate to addiction and make it hard for your teen son/daughter to quit alcohol.
Here are some steps to follow if you have found out your teenager is drinking alcohol:
1 Stay Calm and Assess the Situation
Although you may be absolutely livid it won’t be helpful if you come at your hormonal (and possibly hungover) teenager with guns blazing.
Yes your teenager has been drinking alcohol and it could be serious, but the facts are that teenagers are notorious for experimenting and getting into trouble. Its what they do at that age.
Stay calm and try to assess the situation objectively. What exactly happened, how severe was the incident and who was involved?
Talk to your spouse, or the other parent of your teenager if you are separated, about the incident and make sure you stand together. You don’t have to always agree with each other but you must present a united front.
2 Talk To Your Teenager About the Incident
Talking to your child is essential in this situation for a number of reasons.
The number one being that having a healthy, honest and open relationship with your child is your ultimate goal. If your child feels safe to talk to you and tell you exactly what is going on for him or her a lot of future problems can be avoided or dealt with easier.
Tell your child that you would like to know exactly what happened and you will promise not to judge or freak out.
Be prepared that your teenager may well be defensive and upset. So be prepared for it. Remember to come from a place of love, stay calm and be direct.
3 Explain the Dangers of Alcohol and Drugs to Your Teenager
Be ready to explain to your child why minors are not allowed to drink alcohol, point out things like loss of control and humiliation, getting into trouble with the law and the dangers of addiction. Discuss that dangers of peer influence and how that can lead him or her down a dangerous path.
If your family has a history of addiction chances are you child has a much higher chance of becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs than some other children. It is important that your teenager understands this.
4 Study Your Teenager and Trust Your Gut
During these discussions watch your teenagers body language and reactions to the discussion. Do you feel your teenager is being completely open and honest or is he avoiding eye contact?
Trust your gut instinct here to guide you on whether this was a one off experimental episode with alcohol or is there a deeper problem?
5 Hand Out An Appropriate Consequence
It is important to highlight to your teenager that every action has a consequence. You may want to ground your teenager for a period of time or perhaps you will have to curb your teenagers freedom in other ways such as an earlier curfew for a period of time, or even until further notice. You could also limit who your teenager is allowed to spend time with or the places he goes to.
You could also stop pocket money for a period of time. It is up to you to come up with something that you feel is appropriate.
Remember that the goal here is not to punish your teenager, it is to get your teenager to realize the seriousness of his actions so that he hopefully does not repeat them.
6 Set Boundaries for the Future
Let your teenager know that part of the consequences of his actions you need to relook at boundaries with your child and set new rules.
You may want to change the ways you manage your child’s freedom and privacy. You may feel it necessary to check your teenager’s phone, access his room and limit time online.
Let your child know what the new boundaries are and why they are being set.
Decide on what the consequences will be if there is a future incident with alcohol or drugs and let your child know what it is. Be fully prepared to carry it out.
7 Talk to Other Parents
Being friendly with the parents of your teenagers friends will mean that you can talk to them if any of those teenagers were also involved in the incident. Having all the parents on board and taking similar steps might mean all the difference.
8 Stick to the New Boundaries
It is vitally important to stick to the new boundaries that you have set for your teenager, as we all know they just love to push the boundaries. Having firm boundaries sets a safer space for your teenager.
If your teenager crosses a boundary or breaks a rule you must carry out consequences for that so your teenager knows that you mean business.
Hopefully things ends here, where you teenager pushes a bit, finds firm boundaries and decides not to test again.
9 Contact Professionals
If there are repeat episodes of your teenager drinking alcohol, taking drugs or breaking important boundaries that have been set it is a sign that there could be a much deeper problem. Or perhaps your gut instincts just tell you that something is wrong.
Contact a professional in your area (addiction counselor, therapist, family psychologist) to discuss the way forward.
10 Adolescent Treatment Program
A last and final step may be to look at sending your child to an adolescent unit or an addiction treatment facility.
This guest post is contributed by Danny from MyParentingJournal.com, a blog dedicated to parenting tips, advice, best practices, and resources.