Teenagers and Drinking
All families have their own rules about alcohol. Some don’t allow it in the home while others drink on special occasions. Others enjoy alcohol as part of a family meal. An alcoholic parent can be a deterrent to a teenager but often the child will follow in the parent’s footsteps. Friends are also a strong influence when it comes to drinking alcohol. Peer pressure is immense in teen years and a young person may drink alcohol just to fit in.
Setting Boundaries for Teenagers and Alcohol
It is almost impossible to prevent teenagers from trying alcohol but parents can give guidance. The best way to set boundaries is to discuss the topic openly and allow the teenager to express his or her feelings as well. Here are some suggestions for basic rules about drinking:
• Never drink and drive
• Don’t travel in a vehicle where the driver has consumed alcohol
• Limit the amount of drinks and don’t drink with the aim of getting drunk
• Don’t partake in drinking competitions
• Don’t leave a drink unattended in case someone spikes it
• Stay in groups and don’t go off alone with anyone
Signs that Teenage Drinking is out of Control
Social drinking can develop into alcoholism even during teenage years. Health experts recommend that adult men should not drink more than 21 units of alcohol per week and an adult woman, 14 units. A unit is equal to a small glass of wine, a single measure of spirits, or a half pint of beer or cider. Teenagers should restrict their intake to even lower amounts.
The following are signs that drinking may be spiralling out of control:
• Relationship problems caused by drinking
• Rash behavior such as provoking fights and walking home alone
• Embarrassing behavior in public
• Problems that lead to police intervention
• Dependency on alcohol and drinking to overcome shyness and inhibitions
• Health issues such as kidney and liver problems, and bloating
Most teenagers like to experiment with alcohol and if permission is denied, they will likely drink behind their parents’ back. It is best to keep communication open about alcohol and discuss drinking in a rational manner. If a teen’s drinking is getting out of hand and they are dependent on alcohol to get through the day, parents should not hesitate to seek professional help.
Teenager manual – The Practical Guide for All Parents , Dr Pat Spungin, Haynes Publishing, 2007