How do you deal with your teenager drinking?

First off: ugh.

We were all teenagers once, some of you reading this may still be one. My SO and I both drank under 21 as well. Unfortunately, we’ve hit a crossroads with our 16 year old daughter who has taken a liking to alcohol. My SO and I drink maybe once a year which involves a Bailey’s and cocoa at a cabin when we’re alone together. We’re not teetotalers, but just not interested in drinking. Our daughter’s mother, however, has been in rehab twice in the last couple years, although those have been times after the divorce and our daughter lives with us full time.

My SO has been of the mind that if we make alcohol some fruta prohibida, that it would only encourage to drink and lie about it more. So, we explained that we don’t want her to drink, but if she does, she can always call us for a ride home and we will do it. For some reason, she translated that in her teenage mind and the next day asked me to pick up alcohol for her friend and her for a party.

There seems to be a hazy line between condoning it and saying “if you do, we’ll come and get you without any consequences”. We want her to be able to call us up if she has been drinking behind our backs and get a ride home instead of getting in to some trouble (or worse). But at the same time, we don’t want her drinking at all. She asked us what her punishment was if we caught her drinking and we didn’t have an answer. She seems to want clear and defined boundaries but it seems like we’re going to have a problem either way.

So what’s the solution?

There probably is no easy solution, I raised 3 tenagers and have had 3 different results. Both boys took me up on the ride home once each. They both still drink, one probably once a week while bowling and the other once a month or so. The oldest still get plastered with his buds 2 or 3 times a year, but the youngest has never been drunk again. Both were very shamed the next day after the binges.
My daughter has never been drunk and has a drink once in a blue moon.
The good news is neither of them have a problem with drinking and don’t have any out of control drinking issues. They are now 38, 34, and 30.

Try not to condem drinking so hard it makes it attractive, try to let the consequences of drinking speak for themselves. If you do have to pick her up from too much drinking, just take her home and put her to bed, the lecture can be low-key the next day.

Punishment? That’s hard but we always tried an escallation of punishment, starting with simple grounding and working our way up to no phone, no tv, no games, no after school anything.

I don’t think there’s a way to both ensure she’ll call you if she needs a ride AND punish her if she’s caught. Those two things just don’t go together.

That said, I’d go the education route; I’d make it very clear to her what would happen if the cops caught her, and how easy it is for a party to get busted, or all the other situations where a teenager can easily get caught drinking. Find out what your local minor in possession laws are, and make sure she knows what the consequences will be. Also talk to her about how easy it is to do stupid stuff while drinking and end up embarrassed (or worse) the next day.

Other than that… I don’t know what you can realistically do. If she wants to experiment, she’s going to, and I’d rather have a kid who knows they can call for a ride without facing punishment or judgment rather than one who’ll risk driving home because they don’t want to be grounded the next day.

Punishment should never be stated outright. This allows the teen to weigh risks.

You simply state, your punishment will be decided on a case by case basis.

If your child is getting alcohol I would be more concerned where she’s getting it? Who’s she hanging out with and such.

You also have to be realistic, since alcohol can diminish your ability to think, you need to make sure your daughter knows all about pregnancy prevention and HIV/STD prevention as well.

Been where you were at as a 21 year old and what your going through with your daughter. I am sober for 7 years and was a teenage drinker. I never called for a ride home as it was not allowed. I got into some horrible jackpots in my teen years. I tried to hide it but once I had my first drink I was off and running. It was not my parents fault. I just have a disease that runs in my family. I have non drinking parents and my sibs are not alcoholics but I was.

My son started drinking at 15 and had some bad things happen. As I was sober I let it roll and told him to drink at home. One night the police brought him home. They saw his feet sticking out of a snow bank. He passed out walking home. He could have frozen to death or been hit by a plow. I started going to Alanon meetings along with AA meetings for myself. Alanon is for the families of problem drinkers. I learned so much in Alanon that within a year my son was sober and doing well. It is a miracle but I needed to change how I handled his drinking. It wasn’t a walk in the park for him or me but I followed Alanon principals.

I really think I was part of the problem before I started attending Alanon. I met some nice parents who were going through the same thing I was. You can look up local meetings online.

Good Luck!

"Oh, no no no, sweetie. You have misunderstood. We would prefer if you don’t drink until you are old enough - which in this country and state is 21. Its illegal at your age, it can be dangerous, it makes you do stupid things, and when you are sixteen - with the emotional roller coaster that sixteen is, you really don’t need any chemical assistance in having emotions.

However, we want you to know that if you drink anyways, if you call us for a ride we will pick you up, because we’d rather have you throwing up in the back seat of our car than dead - and dead is a really good possibility when you are a teenager and you drink and drive - or get in the car with someone who has been drinking.

We will not be procuring alcohol for you - that could end up with us in jail and you in a foster home. We will not tolerate parties in this house, that could end up with us in jail and you in a foster home."

Dangerosa, got it right. Remind your daughter of what the law is. You didn’t make the law, but your family are law abiding and you expect it to be abided by. There are also some practical reasons for the law…keeping people from dying, whether it be the teenager or heaven forbid the person they hit with their car.

So when she turns 21, tell her you’ll be there with her with your Baileys and cocoa celebrating.

This story might be worth sharing as a lighter example of stupid things people do when they’re drunk.

What worked for me is “If you’re drunk and you need a ride, you call me. You will be punished, but not as badly as if you’re drunk and you DON’T call me. It’s not like you can wander in here drunk without me noticing anyway.”

I never made a huge deal out of drinking. My daughter was allowed to drink at home from the time she was sixteen or so. My feeling is that the only way to learn your tolerance is to reach it, and I’d rather have her do that in a safe place. I realize many people would disagree with this as a parenting philosophy, but my daughter has yet to pass out in a house full of strangers, which is more than I can say for myself at her age.

I am a little under 2 years clean and sober. I started drinking/using at 13 FWIW. My parents forbade it, and I still was winding up in serious trouble on a regular basis. I drank and used to escape from the things in my head I couldn’t escape from on my own. It took me 10 years to overcome the drugs and booze. It was never a fun, harmless thing. Why is she drinking?

I’m sorry, but you would be hardpressed to convince me that a 16 year old has any buisness drinking, whether it’s at home with parents or not. You would also be hardpressed to convince me that a 16 year old is drinking for any reason other than escape, even if it’s just from bordom.

Can drinking be harmless for a minor? I guess if we are talking less-than-dead harmless, but if a minor is finding a need to escape from ANYTHING, I think there is trouble brewing, and it might not have a thing to do with booze.

I havent had a drink/drug in nearly 2 years, but I have aquired character defects a’plenty from those years that I still deal with.

Al-anon is awesome for parents, AA is awesome for alcoholics/problem drinkers/doubters/in-betweens, even teenage ones.

Well, to counter one example with another, I got drunk for the first time at 12 and pretty much had grown out of the “drinking until passing out”-phase by the time I was 15. I was out every weekend with my friends but was usually one of the most sober ones there… but I still drank. I never got in serious trouble, let alone on a regular basis; neither did any of my friends. These may be different cultural settings talking, but here in Finland, teenage drinking is regarded as a self-evident fact so obviously people’s mindset and reactions will differ.

My parents did not forbid me from drinking - in fact, we have a rule in our family that after the age of 15, children are allowed to have a glass of wine during a meal - but they made it very clear that a) I could always call on them for help and they would deliver and b) they reserved the right to mock me and make snarky comments if I was hungover the next day. (To be honest, though, this was when I was 14-15. I think their reaction would have been somewhat different when I was 12. Then again, their different reaction wouldn’t have stopped me from drinking anyway.) Some of my friends’ parents were much stricter on the subject of alcohol and for them it WAS a forbidden fruit to be sampled at any possible occasion.

Alternatively, you’d be hard pressed to convince me that letting a sixteen year old drink occasionally causes alcoholism, given all the evidence to the contrary.

The fact that the number of alcoholics is a tiny minority of the number of people who drink would seem to indicate that the alcohol isn’t the problem.

As your own case shows, taking a hard line on it doesn’t necessarily do any good. And offering to be the sober driver for your teen if he gets stuck somewhere might be the difference between a kid who ends up in rehab and one six feet under.

Also, my experience with this as a teen was I didn’t drink (well, once), but my friends did and they were often the ones with cars. “Mom, pick me up, I don’t feel safe with anyone here driving me home” without the fear of Mom ratting out your friends can be a lifeline.

I think Dang speaks sensibly.

I don’t see any problem with letting your teen have a glass of wine occasionally, but I don’t see a reason to be regularly providing them alcohol for recreational drinking. And the potential liability for providing booze to a child other than yours is too huge to contemplate for a second.

And we always presented the drive home thing as concern for their safety - and one expression of our love for them and desire to be there for them. They never took us up on it.

But I’m unable to speak from experience. I don’t know how it happened, but none of my 3 kids took much of a liking to alcohol. Now that all 3 are in college, I know they all drink socially, but I am pretty certain none of them has ever had a hangover or puked from drinking.

And tho I have not drunk now for nearly 6 years, I was FAR from a teetotaller when they were growing up. If my teen “developed a taste for alcohol” I’d be concerned, simply because I know that once I developed a taste for booze I developed habits over the next couple of decades that I was unable to break, such that now I am sober instead of being able to drink socially, occasionally, and moderately.

There’s a lot of territory in between treating alcohol as a forbidden fruit and buying alcohol for your kid and others to have at a party. Just like there’s a lot of territory between forbidding your kid to ever watch TV and buying them a TV for their bedroom.

Make sure that she knows that, if she’s at a party and something is happening that she’s not comfortable with, be it drinking or anything else, she can call you and get a ride home. Be sure to talk with her about peer pressure to drink more than she might otherwise want to, or to do things while drunk that she might regret later.

Depending on your daughter’s relationship with her mother (and with you) you might be able to use her as an object lesson in your discussions. I don’t mean in a yelling, screaming, “Drink and you’ll end up like your mother!” kind of way, but in a much more rational way.

I have had to have a few conversations with my step-daughter around issues like this (not precisely, but close enough). In our case, we have a good relationship, and she is old enough to recognize her father for the general screw-up that he is. I essentially said to her that she needs to be aware that she would appear to have some genetic tendencies (mostly on her father’s side) and some personality traits of her own that could very easily lead to addictions. Any consumption of alcohol or other potentially addictive substances should be undertaken with caution, and with foreknowledge that it could be a very slippery slope for her.

That conversation was pretty time-, place-, and attitude-specific. Like I said, a great deal depends upon the status of your daughter’s relationships with you and her mother at this point in time, and whether or not she’s looking ahead at things like finishing school, having a career - life in general. But, in our case, I think it’s a tactic that had some positive effect.

Other than that, all I can do is wish you luck.

I’ve given my daughter all of the facts on drinking. She is well aware of the potential dangers because she has lived it. Alcoholism runs deep on my side of the family, going back four generations, including me. Also her mothers mom died of cirrhosis of the liver due to drinking and her mother likes to drink as well, although she isn’t an alcoholic.
Unfortunately my daughter likes to drink and has admitted to me that she has gotten plastered on occasion.

She’ll be 20 next month and all I can do is cross my fingers and hope for the best. When I was still drinking I would sometimes let her have a beer or two with me because I wanted to be a cool dad, I wish I wouldn’t have done that now but I doubt it would’ve made any difference.
I’m hoping her remembering my drunken rantings at her and the world in general will outweigh her desire to drink to excess…sigh.

We’ve had that discussion with both our kids - although with my son who is adopted we have no idea what his genetic tendencies might be. We do know that depression and alcoholism gallop through my family like Secretariat on Derby Day - so since they were little they got the “it is something to be careful of” speech. They are currently ten and eleven.

Because it’s fun. It lowers your inhibitions. It’s relaxing. It’s rebellious.

If you seriously can’t think of any reason why a teenager would drink other than sheer escapism, you’re being wilfully obtuse.

And not just rebellious, but forbidden! Illegal! I didn’t start drinking until I went to college, but dropped my drinking frequency when I turned 21 and therefore legal.