Question: My 12-year-old son and his friends are always joking…
Underage drinking problems can be so subtle in the beginning that many parents might not even notice that it is happening, especially if they have teens who are “good kids” and generally follow the rules without question. Teen drinking is a topic that I believe often gets overlooked by parents who think their teens would never become dependent on a substance, so they don’t bother dealing with that issue. Unfortunately just talking to our teens about the dangers is often not enough for some.
I know that none of us want to ever believe that our kids would choose to participate in a reckless behavior like underage drinking. But the facts remain that 35.1 percent of 15-year-olds report that they have had at least one drink in their lives. Hopefully your teens are not part of that percentage, however when I see statistics like 8.7 million people ages 12–20 (22.7 percent of this age group) reported drinking alcohol in the past month, I think it’s worth taking the time to learn what underage drinking looks like.
Knowledge is power right? Knowing the signs is a great way to be proactive in helping your child avoid the dangers that come from underage drinking.
You will certainly want to be vigilant in making sure your teens understand the risks and consequences of participating in this illegal activity. After you’ve discussed the legal repercussions and you’ve told your teens the facts and your expectations of them, you’ll still need to stand watch. Recognizing the typical signs of underage drinking can be the difference between a teen that has one underage experience with alcohol and one that develops riskier behaviors that lead to dependency from underage drinking that goes unnoticed.
Look for the changes. Sometimes they can be passed off as regular teenage angst, but if your teen’s personality changes suddenly and makes you wonder who stole your teen and replaced them with a fake, then you might want to take a closer look at what is going on just in case. Catching the problem early on so that you can address it right away is important, so don’t feel guilty for thinking your teen might be in trouble even if it turns out they are just dealing with normal teen stresses.
Teens who once had dreams and aspirations might suddenly stop participating in social activities and hobbies. Your teen’s group of friends might change as well as they begin spending time with others who are participating in underage drinking with them. Appearance is another thing that often changes when a teen is caught up in underage drinking. They will begin to care less about spending time on their appearance and hygiene will begin to take a backseat to drinking. Also, teens who were once quiet and reserved suddenly become the outgoing life of the party.
It all comes down to this: If you’re a parent who is really engaged in your teen’s most vulnerable years, you shouldn’t stop watching out for your teens just because they look all grown up. They are still counting on you to know them best and recognize when they are struggling even if they don’t know it themselves.