How to Talk to Your Teen About Drinking

As parents, we need to have uncomfortable conversations with our teenagers in order to keep them safe. Whether it is about sex, drugs, or alcohol, communication is key in understanding how our children feel about serious topics, and what they might be doing. Even the best kids might be curious about dangerous behavior, or may be pressured into them. 

Hi, I am attorney Jill Ruane. I am a mother of four and I have also spent the last decade working with juvenile defense cases. I have seen how issues with drugs and alcohol can impact a family and hurt a teen’s future. Whether you suspect that your teen is drinking or you are seeking to prevent this issue, talking to your kids about alcohol is an essential step in keeping them safe. Here are three tips for talking to your kids about alcohol. 

Tip #1: Be Open

If your teen is curious about alcohol, they should be able to talk to you about it. And if they are engaging in dangerous behavior, they need to feel comfortable telling you. If they think that you will overreact, they will try to keep drinking a secret. Ask your teen about their opinion on alcohol or if they have ever tried it and let them know that they won’t get in trouble for telling you the truth.

Tip #2: Discuss the Downside of Drinking

Teens may feel that drinking is exciting or that it will make them cool. But teens don’t always think about the negative effects of alcohol. They don’t think about it as a depressant, an addictive substance, or something that could make them lose control and end up in dangerous situations. Discuss these negative elements of alcohol to dispel the myth that alcohol is always fun and cool.

Tip #3: Set Real Consequences

While your discussion with your teen should be open, you need to set boundaries with them. And just saying, “if I catch you drinking, there will be consequences” will not sink in for your teen. They might think they can just avoid getting caught, or that if they do get caught, the consequences won’t be severe. Instead, be clear and direct. Say something like this: “you can go to that party, but I will be waiting up for you when you get home to see if you have been drinking. If you do drink at the party, you will be grounded for a month”. This sets a clear expectation and real consequences. 

While this might be an uncomfortable conversation, it is always a good idea to communicate with your teen about alcohol. If you know another parent who can use these tips, send them this article. And if you need additional resources, feel free to contact my office. I am happy to help.