What can parents do about teen drinking?

Parents can help deter their children from drinking by being a role model, getting involved, understanding the risks and laying out the rules.

Many Virginia teenagers turn to underage drinking. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1.3 million people between the ages of 12 and 20 reported being heavy drinkers and another 5 million said they were binge drinkers. Of the youth in this age range, approximately 4.4 percent, or 1.6 million, have admitted to driving while under the influence. Minors using alcohol is a prevalent issue that can have serious consequences.

Act as a role model

If a parent tells his or her child not to misuse liquor but then drinks and drives every weekend, the child may have a misguided understanding of alcohol use. Parents need to set a good example for their children by not misusing spirits themselves. Not only should a mother or father avoid driving under the influence, but he or she should also be aware of how many drinks are enjoyed in an average week. Even parents should get help if it seems like there is too much drinking going on.

Get involved in the community

Parents can help discourage their children from joining in underage drinking by getting involved in community- and school-run organizations that speak out about teenage alcohol use. Mothers and fathers can also use other parents to create a network of adults to help keep kids out of trouble. For example, families can band together to help each other know the whereabouts of their children and ensure that alcohol use is not permitted at any house.

Know the risk factors

There are certain times in a teenager's life when the allure of drinking with his or her friends is strong. Some children turn to alcohol during major life changes, such as transitioning to a new school. Even who a child hangs out with could affect the likelihood of drinking underage. Other potential risk factors include the following:

  • Emotional turmoil
  • Social problems
  • Depression

If parents realize that their children may have more temptations at certain points in their lives, they may be able to help steer them away from drinking underage.

Establish consistent policies

Like with other aspects of a child's life, consistency is key. By creating rules related to drinking early on, parents may be able to help their children have a better understanding of the potential concerns related to the misuse of alcohol. Parents should talk with their children about how they expect beer to be treated. For example, a mother and father may tell their child that all alcohol in the home is off limits to him or her and any of the child's friends.

Underage drinking is a problem in Virginia and other parts of the country. If a juvenile is caught drinking, it may be beneficial to talk with a lawyer familiar with this type of criminal law case.