Alcohol and Teens: What Parents Need to Know About Under-Age Drinking

Underage drinking can lead to health and behavioral problems for teens. While the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported that an estimated 60 percent of all teens had at least one drink by the age 18, it also states (under heavier consumption) it can cause aggressive and/or violent behavior, poor decision-making, plus carelessness concerning drinking and driving or sexual activities.

It may be natural for adolescents to experiment with dad’s beer in the garage or try the wine in the refrigerator as they mature, seek independence, and find new challenges. It may also be common for alcohol to show up at high school dances, parties, or other social functions on more than one occasion. As a parent, it’s vital to recognize the risks concerning your teen and alcohol.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, here are a few tell-tale signs that your teen may be drinking:

  • Mood swings such as short tempers, defensiveness, and frequent irritability.
  • Poor school grades and low performance in school-related activities, and/or frequent disciplinary action.
  • Change of friends with an adverse attitude of letting you know about them.
  • Rebellious against family members or “family rules.”
  • Changes in personality including a poor appearance, low interest in former interests, and lack of energy.
  • Finding alcohol in their room or elsewhere.
  • Poor concentration, frequent red/bloodshot eyes, low coordination levels, or “affected speech”

What Parents Can Do About It

It’s not easy being a parent, especially when it comes to trying to help your teen make responsible decisions. To prevent underage drinking with your teen and its potential consequences, the NIAAA suggests you speak to them  often about your concerns with alcohol; establish new household policies and rules; become more central in their lives; communicate with other parents to learn about their social activities; and keep alcohol concealed in your home. If alcohol becomes a problem, there are many troubled teen programs and online programs for teens for you to visit and gain a better understanding of the problems associated with underage drinking.

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