Foster regular and productive communication
Address issues calmly and directly
Communicate clear expectations. Be clear and direct. Explain that you do not approve of underage drinking and that you expect them not to do it, even when around friends who drink.
Discuss, and agree upon, consequences. Involve your child in a conversation about what should happen if they do drink while underage, and what will happen as a result. Be sure you can enforce these rules and that your child understands why you’ve set them.
Help your child understand the legal implications. Drinking under the age of 21 is illegal. Explain how this law is in place for a reason, and why you do not approve of breaking it.
Explain why drinking is very different for a teenager than for an adult. The teen brain continues to develop well into one’s 20s , and drinking has significant negative effects on its development.
Keep an eye on how your child is coping. If your child continues drinking or if they seem to be struggling, these are signs that your child might need additional help or professional treatment. Be sure to seek help.
Does your child have an alcohol use disorder?
It can be difficult to assess when your child is “just experimenting” or if they’re struggling with their drinking to the point of an alcohol use disorder. Any alcohol use is an issue when your child is underage. If your child is 21 or older, it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of a problem as well.
If you’re concerned, it’s always best to get an assessment from a professional. You may be worried that your child’s drinking is getting out of hand, so start by asking these questions:
- Has your child’s drinking, or being sick from drinking, often interfered with their responsibilities, such as at a job, school, or home?
- Does your child have times when they ended up drinking more, or longer than they intended?
- Has your child more than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Does your child spend a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over a hangover?
- Has your child experienced a craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Does your child continue to drink even though it causes trouble with family or friends?
- Has your child given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting in order to drink?
- Has your child more than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased their chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex), or harming others?
You know your child best. Be sure to start a conversation if you have any concern about their drinking, and get support if needed.