What Parents Need To Know About Teen Drinking


For some parents, it might seem impossible that their teen would consume alcohol, but the reality is that many do. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 80 percent of high school seniors have consumed alcohol. Whether you are alarmed by that statistic or feel reassured that it’s “only alcohol,” all parents should remember that alcohol is harmful.

Drinking alcohol during the teen years can affect your child’s growth and development. With heavier drinking, irreversible changes to the brain have even been shown to occur. Some experts consider alcohol a gateway drug that can open the door to more serious substance abuse problems and risky behaviors like:

  • Drunk driving
  • Fighting
  • Sexual activity

Why do teens drink?

There are many reasons why teens choose to drink. Understanding the reasons is an important first step towards prevention. Reasons may include:

A need to fit in with friends who have already started drinking

  • Curiosity
  • Drinking as a “rite of passage” into adulthood
  • To relax or boost their confidence

Once you understand why your child might choose to drink, you need to work to keep your child from thinking or feeling like drinking is the answer to any problem. First and foremost, parents should be a source of confidence for their child. The better your child feels about themselves, the more likely they are to stand up to peer pressure. Another thing parents should do is get to know your child’s friends. Some other suggestions are:

  • Be sure your child is always under parental supervision whether by you or a friend’s parent.
  • Don’t let your child go to a party where alcohol will be served (if this information is known).
  • Talk to your child about alcohol and harmful consequences of overconsumption.
  • Teach your child healthy ways to handle their emotions.

How serious is my teen’s drinking?

There are several different phases your teen’s drinking could fall within. For most teens, their experience is limited to the first stage. However, there are some teens that develop serious issues with alcohol. Below, find the stages:

  • Experimenting: During this phase your teen’s drinking is driven mostly by peer-pressure or the idea that they are just “doing it for fun.” In this phase, there is usually no noticeable changes in behavior when your teen is not drinking.
  • Actively seeking: If your teen falls within this phase, they are using alcohol to make them feel better in times of stress. They don’t limit their use of alcohol to the weekends anymore, and you may notice changes in their behavior including: spending more time alone; different friends; lack of energy or changes in their grooming. Keep in mind that just because your child exhibits these changes, it does not mean they are abusing alcohol.
  • Preoccupation: At this point, your teen will have lost control over their alcohol use, and you may start to notice alcohol missing from your home. This is the most serious of the phases. If you think your teen’s drinking fits this phase, you should talk to your pediatrician about what options your child has for treatment.

If you aren’t sure how to start the conversation with your child about alcohol, talk to your pediatrician. Call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936) or go to henryford.com to make an appointment.

Categories: ParentWell