Along with the blog, the facebook account, the instagram account and the twitter account, I also created a new reddit account. One of the first posts I read was this one: My 14 year old daughter is passed-out drunk at home right now. Advice for how to have the conversation when she sobers up in the morning? Now I often look into the future wondering what trouble my kids will get into, but this was a pretty good slap of reality. Therefore, in order to get ready for my future troubles, I decided to build on my response. Keep in mind, I am not a therapist or psychologist. I am just a dad with a lot of life experiences who has read a few things here and there. The following is how I believe, today, I would handle underage drinking amongst my children.
Helping an Underage Drinker
First, I believe the studies and scientists: abstinence-only education does not work. Whether it is sex, alcohol, drugs or anything – the facts are clear – telling our kids to simply abstain is not an effective solution. Instead, I believe the most important way to improve good decisions regarding underage drinking is to teach safe and responsible behavior.
Do Not Condone the Use of Alcohol Under the Legal Drinking Age
While I don’t believe in potentially harming your relationship with your children by alienating them over an issue like this, it is still important to let them know they are breaking the law and your rules. Let your children know that you do not condone underage drinking. It is one of the most dangerous things they can do legally and safety-wise. Additionally, being caught drinking underage will result in repercussions. For example, the loss of a car or other freedoms can and will be taken away.
Teach Your Children About the Reality of Alcohol Use
Alcohol is responsible for more than 5% of all deaths worldwide, or around 3 million a year, new figures have revealed.
The above quote is from The Guardian’s article, “Alcohol causes one in 20 deaths worldwide, says WHO” from September 2018. I would hope that is a wake-up call enough for any kid – but I’m not naive enough to think it alone will handle the amount of peer pressure kids can feel about alcohol usage. What makes alcohol dangerous is many faceted. Alcohol impairs judgement and coordination, slows reaction times, makes us sick and can kill if we drink too much at a time. That is the message we need to reinforce with our children. Alcohol is dangerous when not respected for what it is.
Safety and Responsibility
Again, we can’t be naive to the reality that our children may be tempted or even make a willful decision to drink underage. Furthermore, we know that we can’t simply fix this problem by expecting our children to not drink. Therefore, we must teach them that if they find themselves in a situation where they decide to drink, to do so responsibly and safely. What does that look like? Consider the following advice:
- The best choice is the choice to not drink.
- If you are going to drink, be in a safe place. Stay there until you are sober.
- Take precautions that keys are away and unavailable. Driving drunk is the worst decision you can make.
- There is a difference between beer, wine and hard alcohol. Know and respect that difference.
- If in doubt, you can always call 24/7 and I will be there to help you.
- Don’t be afraid to leave a bad situation.
Practice Handling Stressful Situations
It has been proven over and over again that the key to making good decisions under stress is practice. In order to make sure the above advice is used, go over it with your child. Ask them what they will do when presented with a situation. Have them role-play or repeat their decisions with you. They may not like it, but hopefully they can respect it.
Set a Good Example
Finally, look at your own lifestyle and decide if you are setting a bad example. Do you get drunk on a regular basis or do you drink responsibly? Do you drink and drive? What about other friends and family? It is up to us to set a consistent good example for our children and that may mean breaking our own bad habits. In many ways, that is one of the hardest and greatest things about parenting and fatherhood. How can we make ourselves better, not just for our kids but for own health and well-being?
If All Else Fails, Get Treatment
If your teenager is drinking heavily, constantly or may be an alcoholic and can’t stop – it may be best to get counseling or an intervention. This is the last and hardest step a parent must take if nothing else works. Naturally, it will be destructive to the parenting relationship with the kid, but it is the best option for their health and livelihood. Furthermore, if they do recover and move past any consistent abuse of alcohol, they will have you to thank. Ultimately, the best thing to do as a parent is what is best for our children, even if it means tough love.
Featured image credit to Angie Garrett (https://www.flickr.com/photos/smoorenburg/3312808594/)