Thursday, June 16, 2011
I Caught My Teenager Drinking with Friends: Now What?
When asked, about a quarter of U.S. teenagers said they had participated in binge drinking (5 or more drinks in a row) in the previous two weeks.(http://monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2010.pdf) That being said, if you find out your teenager has been drinking, you should focus on the harm, and potential harm, he or she faces. First, take two deep breaths. Then, use the incident as an opening to talk about the issue. Regardless of the immediate details, you now have an opportunity to address your teenager's choices about drugs and alcohol. Certainly you should find out if immediately dangerous behavior has occurred: is anyone drinking so much that they are intoxicated? Passed out? Is there a need for an ambulance right now? Also, ask about driving while drunk, including allowing a friend who is "less" intoxicated to drive. Ask about safety: - is your teenager putting herself in a vulnerable position because of her drinking? With these emergency concerns as the framework for a discussion, ask your teenager about what the effects of alcohol are, who is getting the alcohol, and where they are drinking. There is a big difference between a 12 year old drinking to intoxication, and an 18 year old having a beer at a family picnic. You can (and should) set rules and consequences which make sense in your family, with the full understanding that once your teenager leaves High School, there will be few effective bars on his or her ability to use alcohol. Plan for that time when your teenager will be on his or her own!