Category Archives: Mothers Against Driving Drunk

Teen Drinking: What are Parents Missing

September is an exciting time for teens. School is back in full swing and the kids are settling back in to a routine. This routine often involves weekend get togethers, homecoming dances, movies, concerts, and lots of social events that are exciting for your student. However, many teenagers’ weekend plans will also involve alcohol. According to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control 20% of teenage girls engage in binge drinking and the percentage is even higher for boys.  This means that 1 out of 5 kids drink 4 or more drinks in one sitting.  Yet only 1 in 100 parents believe his or her teen binge drinks. What are parents missing?
The teen years can be brutal. Children are learning to navigate new social situations, facing new education Teen brains are also still developing, sometimes making it legitimately difficult for them to determine the consequences of their actions. challenges, and managing stress related to sports and activities, all while their bodies are going through huge emotional and physical changes.  Seeking out independence and taking risks are normal parts of the growing up process. Sadly, drinking, and binge drinking, can be one of these risky behaviors. Peers and parties where binge drinking is normalized can make it hard for teens to see what the problem is.

What Can Parents Do?

To help your teen  make good decisions, it’s important to be aware of common warning signs. Lying, making excuses for rule breaking, ignoring curfew, and stealing are all signs that something serious is going on with your child. A teen that is drinking may also hang out with new friends and may be more verbally or physically aggressive than usual. Other signs can be clearer like finding bottles of alcohol or smelling alcohol on your teen’s breath or clothes.
Make your expectations clear for your teenager but be open to conversation. It can be a delicate line to walk when managing tough topics and teens. Make it clear that you’re available to talk and practice good listening skills. However, also make your own expectations clear and talk about ways to have fun that do not involve alcohol. Clear consequences and expectations can empower your teen to make the healthy choice. Then, once your expectations are set be consistent with consequences.
It’s OK to question your teen. Know who their friends are and where they are going. Although they might try to dismiss your questions, be persistent. It’s your responsibility as a parent to not only know where your teen is but when you should be expecting them home.

The Bottom Line

Teen drinking is serious and risky. Binge drinking can be linked to multiple health issues such as impaired memory and coordination, heart disease, cancer, liver disease, and much more.  Teen drinking can also lead to dangerous and fatal behaviors like drunk driving. According to MADD, 5.8% of 16-17 year oldsand 15.1% of 18-20 year olds admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol over the past year.

Teens that drink excessively may be begging for help in the only way they know how. They might need help finding alternative ways to handle stress related to school, relationships, and all things that come with being a teenager. It is normal for this to be hard. Working together with a counselor can help your teen, and your family, establish healthy boundaries and expectations in regards to teen drinking and can help your teen find healthy ways to manage life.

Amanda Regalia, M.A. a marriage and family counselor and clinician for The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. Amanda specializes in working with families and children ages 5 and up. She is passionate about helping people to create practical solutions that support them in achieving their goals and improving their relationships and life.