5 Things I Did After My Teen Was Caught Drinking

guy frantically talking on the phone man looking stunned with hand over his mouth lady on phone worried with her hand to her mouth    

     Worried.           Stunned.             Guilty.

 

These were just a few of the emotions I felt when I got a call that I needed to pick up my daughter. She’d been caught drinking at her school dance.

Up until that moment, I always thought of my daughter as the poster child of a “good kid” – AP classes, Varsity sports, excellent grades, volunteering, lots of friends. She had not exhibited the signs of a teen abusing alcohol (which I later learned she’d been doing for several months) and the changes I did observe, I previously chalked up to her acting like a “teenager.”

That wasn’t the case though. I was wracked with worry about what this meant for her. I also felt guilty for not knowing that she was drinking alcohol in the first place. I kept asking myself, “How could I have missed it?!”

Finding the answers consumed me. I researched the web, read books, and consulted with experts, family and friends. What I found in my research could be summed up in one short phrase:

Parcel your trust.

This can feel counter-intuitive and just plain wrong, I know, but there are scientific reasons for doing so. Specifically, from ages 13 – 25 years old, there are portions of the brain that drive risk-taking and develop impulsiveness before those that allow for cause-and-effect-type reasoning skills (the brakes). This developmental sequencing represents an important, hardwired function in the human species that creates the impetus to get out, explore, seek and find. Unfortunately, it is this sequencing during the developmental stage of a child that is very tough to parent.

So it becomes our job, then, to parcel out our trust by helping to structure their lives with boundaries yet still have some freedom to explore. As parents, we should help our child grow until eventually we let them take full control of his or her own life.

These are five things that I did with my daughter after I found out about her drinking:

1. Stop the sleepovers. I found out that this is often when substance use occurs—AFTER the hosting parents go to sleep.

2. Set my alarm, get up and read a book in the living room, before curfew rolls around. If teens cannot get away with calling out, “I’m home,” as they pass your bedroom door, they have an excuse to give their friends as to why they are not going to partake. “My mom/dad is a stalker—always up, grilling me when I get home.”

3. Use the science about brain development and risk factors as an entry to early conversations that will establish you as the expert and nudge their restraint thinking when problematic situations arise.

4. Avoid providing the opportunity to lie. Instead of asking, “Have you been drinking?” state your observation, “I smell alcohol on your breath. We’ll talk about this in the morning.” And, in the morning, stay calm, and say something like, “Please explain how you came to have alcohol on your breath last night.”

5. Find the time. Sometimes their teen years seem to be all about rules, curfews, homework, and punishment. Try to set aside time (it could be an errand or getting ice cream at 9:30 p.m.) where you’re together with no lecture, no criticism – even if it’s just a comfortable silence.

Have you ever caught your teen drinking alcohol? What did you do? Let us know in the comments section below!

What You Should Know About Underage Drinking

Questions and answers to teenage alcohol use.

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25 Responses

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    Heather

    July 26, 2018 at 4:00 PM

    My 13 year old son has been sneaking hard lemonade from the fridge in my mom’s basement. He lied when I questioned him multiple times until I told him that he needed to tell me the truth when he wanted to go somewhere with his friends. He confessed. I gave him several opportunities to tell me. I told him that I want to know everything even if he had done something bad or made a mistake. Uh, what is an appropriate reaction to this?

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      Josie Feliz

      July 26, 2018 at 4:15 PM

      Thanks for your message Heather. We have forwarded your message to one of our helpline specialists who can help better answer your question, and she will be reaching out to you shortly.

      Our Helpline is a good place to start if you’d like to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Feel free to connect with us in whichever manner you choose in the future: https://drugfree.org/helpline.

      Thank you. -The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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    Stepmomoftwo

    July 23, 2018 at 11:18 PM

    Tonight I knew the signs of the behavior and trusted my instinct. Having had 15 years in a previous bmarriage of a husband who hid alcohol and drinking, I’m wayyyy smarter than these kids think. While laying in bed I asked my husband if he thought his son (from previous marriage who came to stay with us for the night) was stealing alcohol from the downstairs fridge? He said no way. I was just down there. Well, trusting my gut I got up and snuck downstairs to see his son sneaking the drink back in the fridge. Glad I trusted my gut. My 15 year old was down there watching it all. I was sick. Even worse,
    The sad part when I confronted him, he lied to me. As I know they do. I told him to go upstairs and tell his father what he just did.
    Lying to my face in my home, where I give you food and a roof over your head is the last thing you want to do to me. I will now lock it all up. He will need to rebuild my trust. Anything else I need to do?

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      Josie Feliz

      July 24, 2018 at 11:34 AM

      Thanks for your message Josie. We have forwarded your message to one of our helpline specialists who can help better answer your question, and she will be reaching out to you shortly.

      Our Helpline is a good place to start if you’d like to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Feel free to connect with us in whichever manner you choose in the future: https://drugfree.org/helpline.

      Thank you. -The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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    KMom

    July 8, 2018 at 10:17 PM

    Tonight I found 5 hr energy bottles in my 13 yr old sons room… labels remove and filled with alcohol. Written on the bottles: Rum, Fireball, Mud Slide and Tequila. He’s away camping with his dad. I dumped them out. Now I don’t know what do to… we’ve caught him twice with a vape (a 3rd time last night when I went through his suitcase for camping). I’m aleady the worst parent for going through his stuff and not giving “him privacy”. I’m ready to lose my mind.

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      Candice Besson

      July 9, 2018 at 9:42 AM

      Thanks for your message KMom. We have forwarded your message to one of our Helpline Specialists who can help better answer your question, and she will be reaching out to you shortly. Please do not hesitate to call our Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE in the future. Thank you. -Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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