Teen drinking: parents fear it, movies and TV shows celebrate it and teens find themselves caught in a cyclone of confusing messages and impulses. For parents, it's important to understand why teens drink and to realize that this problem is no longer the domain of older teens; a 2002 study by Students Against Dangerous Decisions (SADD) found that drinking begins as early as sixth grade.
Why Teens Drink
Any teen who drinks is making a choice. Sometimes it's simple experimentation. In other cases, teens base their actions on parental behavior, rebel against rules or follow examples set by their friends. The desire to fit in, depression and the need to cope with stress can also be causes.
Drinking is seen by many teens as a right of passage and a way to behave like adults. While TV and movies get much of the blame for glamorizing alcohol, parents also do their part, especially if alcohol is a prominent part of family celebrations or cocktail parties are on the social calendar. Most parents assume that teens will drink, but few expect their teens to develop serious drinking problems.
There are some known risk factors identified by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse that cause a higher incidence of teen drinking problems. These include genetic links to alcoholism, friends who use alcohol or other drugs, impulse control problems, childhood abuse, depression or psychological problems, a lack of communication with parents and inattentive parents.
Preventing Drinking Problems
Parents of teens who have one or more of these identified risk factors must work harder to keep the teen from developing a drinking problem. To assess these risks, parents must be involved in the teen's life with open communication, attention to the teen's behavior and regular contact. This close relationship ideally was built before the teenage years started. If not, parents need to take steps to build this relationship to help the at-risk teen succeed in avoiding drinking problems.
Parents remain the top influence in a teen's life, even if teen behavior makes them feel irrelevant. Here are some important suggestions for helping a teen avoid drinking alcohol:
There are severe consequences for underage drinking, including
Here are six ideas for themes for alcohol-free teen party ideas that are sure to be a blast.
Teenage drinking problems must be treated. The dangers of teen alcoholism include: increase in car accidents, increased probability of drug use, losing jobs and friends, increased probability of sexual behavior, increased probability of committing crime and increased likelihood of attempted suicide.
How do parents know if their teen is suffering from teen alcoholism?