Why Do Teens Drink (How to Prevent It)

You’ve encountered the nightmare scenario you never wanted to experience as a parent:  your teen comes home drunk late at night on a weekend.  Fears run through your head faster than you realize, and your immediate reaction is to get upset and let them know what’s what.

It’s definitely a good idea to provide your disapproval when a teen acts irresponsibly, but that’s only one small step to reduce the chances it will happen again.  While you can’t control the choices your teen makes no matter how hard you try, you can take certain steps to reduce the likelihood it will happen again.  Here are some steps you can take to help your teen make healthier decisions:

  • Construct consequences and follow through on them.  Whatever the consequence is for your teen’s intoxication, follow through on it as soon as your child is sober.  That way, he or she knows you are serious and may think twice before drinking too much the next time.  This is one of the most important recommendations interventionists make.
  • Have an honest discussion when they’re sober.  The next day, talk with your teen right away about his or her behavior.  Remember, from their perspective, all they are seeing so far is your anger.  Really, fear is motivating your anger.  Explain to them, and use real life examples of family members, of how drinking leads to only negative situations in life.  Tell them you are afraid those same bad things could happen to them, and that you don’t want to go as far as having an alcohol intervention if the behavior continues.
  • Disrupt the pre-game drinking process.  “Pre-gaming,” or drinking prior to athletic contests, is a popular behavior among teen crowds and is one of the basic facts about alcohol abuse.  This behavior also often occurs in vehicles, making it doubly dangerous.  To discourage this behavior, transport your teen to the game yourself, and know how they will be getting home after the game.
  • Drinking as a means to relax.  You see this cycle in adults all the time too.  Like adults, some teens study and practice sports all week long, and then view weekend binge drinking as their time to relax and enjoy themselves.  To modify this behavior, encourage them to participate in healthy recreational activity throughout the weekend.  In addition, they’ll build a sense of self-worth after having accomplished success with new activities.  A healthy sense of self-worth is one of the best defenses against alcohol use.
  • Social lubricant.  Being a teenager is awkward, and for those ones who aren’t already popular in school, drinking serves as an immediate means for gaining social acceptance.  Again, healthy role modeling is a large key to your teen’s success.  Allow your teen to have friends over so they can participate in healthy activities.  Participate with them yourself a little while so you seem like more fun.  Also, praise them whenever they hang out with a crowd of wholesome teens.

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Ultimately, you can’t control your teen’s choices.  But, if you follow these steps, you can certainly improve the quality of their decision making and reduce their chances of engaging in risky behavior so you never have to face using a professional intervention.

Mike Loverde

As a Certified Intervention Professional (CIP), member of NAATP, NAADAC, and accredited by the Pennsylvania Certification Board, Mike Loverde knows first-hand what it’s like to live life with addiction. By overcoming it, he had a calling to work with others who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions—the people who use and the families who feel helpless watching them decay.

With thousands of interventions across the United States done and many more to come, Loverde continues to own the intervention space, since 2005, by working with medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and others who need expert assistance for their patients who need intervention. To further his impact on behavioral health and maximize intervention effectiveness, Loverde is near completion of a Masters in Addiction Studies (MHS) accreditation, as well as a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC), and is committed to attaining the designation of a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).

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