Underage drinking poses real risks to teenagers. Not only does alcohol consumption have physical risks, but drinking puts children at risk for a host of other problems. Children who drink are often unaware of the harm that they are doing to themselves, so it is up to parents to do all that they can to keep their kids alcohol-free.
Talk to Them
Although it may not always feel like it, kids do listen to their parents. It’s best if you start young and strive to keep the lines of communication open. Kids respond better to a bunch of small talks rather than a big lecture, so try to incorporate your opinions and thoughts about drinking into conversations throughout your children’s childhoods. And do your best not to talk down to your kids – remember that kids tend to feel a lot more grown up than we think they are. They will value your input a lot more if you give it with respect to their opinions.
Parenting is no easy task. In today’s world, kids are faced with adult choices every day and need to be strong in order to make wise choices. Concerned parents can do a number of things to help keep their underage children from drinking.
Keep in touch with other parents and be sure that your child is in responsible hands when not at home. Allow your children to attend parties only when proper adult supervision will be available. Often, kids who might otherwise stay out of trouble find themselves in a situation that they don’t know how to handle. Peer pressure can be difficult for teens, so making sure that an adult will be on hand to keep tabs on the kids can help to relieve some of the pressure for kids. Also, be sure that you monitor what goes on in your home. Other parents need to know that their kids are safe when visiting your house.
Stay actively involved in your children’s lives and get to know their friends. It is your right and obligation to know where your children are and what they are up to. Be sure that your kids understand that it is not a matter of trust, simply a matter of caring. Whether they admit it or not, kids appreciate knowing that their parents care enough to make and enforce some rules.
Keeping kids busy with productive activities will help them to avoid underage drinking. Boredom is a dangerous thing for kids, especially teenagers, so be sure that your children stay involved in athletics, music, art, or other activities that give them something to do.
Set the Example
Kids often follow the example set by their parents. If you drink, be sure that you do so in a responsible manner and never allow your children to drink in your presence. Sending the message that you accept underage drinking, even in moderation, is risky. It is much better to show your children how you expect them to behave, rather than merely telling them.
Signs of a Problem
Despite our best efforts, some teenagers will drink. If you suspect that your teenager is drinking, be sure to take action. Without your intervention, your teenager could develop a serious drinking problem. Signs of underage drinking include:
- Changes in mood, including irritability and temper outbursts.
- Problems in school such as poor attendance, a bad attitude towards schoolwork, or a drop in grades.
- Disobedience of family rules.
- Dropping long-term friends in favour of a new group, especially if your teen is reluctant to have you meet their new friends.
- Low energy and a lack of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed.
- Smelling alcohol on your child’s breath or finding alcohol amongst their possessions.
- Signs of drunkenness, including slurred speech, lack of coordination, or bloodshot eyes.
By recognising the signs, talking to your children, setting an example and taking some action you can help keep your children safe and reduce the risk of problems in later life.