Your teens are always at risk for underage drinking, and there are countless opportunities for them to test the limits—that's their job as teenagers.
Our job as parents is to set clear boundaries and monitor our children—where they go, what they do, how they act and more. This kind of monitoring is not a violation of trust. It should be a regular and expected part of parenting throughout the pre-teen and teen years.
Your teen expects you to keep her from drinking. It is okay to monitor what she does. We've tried to make it easier by providing helpful information and tips on what you can do to prevent underage drinking.
It can be hard and uncomfortable to begin the process of monitoring your child for alcohol use—especially during the teen years when arguments and hurt feelings can make things even tougher. To help you get started, we have listed three levels of actions for each tip. If you already do the first step, move on to the next one. If you’re not doing any, you can start with the basics and move up as you feel comfortable.
Check In Often
- Before your teen goes to a party or out with friends, ask if adults will be present and if any alcohol will be there.
- Ask your teen to call you from the party or gathering. If you have caller ID, you can ask him to use a landline, if possible, not a cell phone. That way you can tell where your child is when he calls.
- Trust but verify - check in with other parents about your teen’s activities or drop by once in a while where your teen tells you she will be.
Be Up and Be Ready
- Wait up, or set the alarm for curfew time - talk with your teen about his night.
- When your teen arrives home, look for signs of alcohol use. Teens who believe their parents would catch them are less likely to drink.
- Be prepared in advance for what you will do the FIRST time you discover that your teen has been drinking. Think ahead about how you want to react, who you will talk to and how you will enforce the consequences.
Checklist for Parents
For a printable copy of this information, see Checklist for Parents.
Before your teen goes out, make sure you talk with her about the following:
- Do you know your curfew?
- Do you know the consequences of breaking curfew?
- Where are you going?
- What are you doing?
- Who will you be with?
- Will alcohol be present? What will you do if it is?
- Will there be adult supervision?
When your teen returns, check for the following:
- Is your teen easily able to talk with you? Is he coherent?
- Is there a smell of alcohol on clothing or breath?
Talk about what happened while your teen was out:
- Were there any problems or peer pressures? If so, how did she handle it? How did she feel about it?
- Was alcohol present? If so, was he concerned about putting himself or others at risk? What was or could have been done to prevent problems?
- Was there adult supervision? Was it adequate to keep people safe?
Parent RemindersHere is a list of actions and attitudes that can help you reduce underage drinking:
- I know my teen’s friends, especially the four best friends.
- I know the places my teen hangs out.
- I sometimes show up early or unannounced to a gathering or event.
- I know the parents of my teen’s friends.
- I talk with the parents of my teen’s friends regularly by email and phone.
- I talk with my teen about alcohol and how to refuse it.
- I praise and reward good behavior.
- I follow through on consequences when rules are broken.
- I encourage my teen and my teen’s friends to have fun without drinking (sports, family activities, hobbies, clubs, etc).
- I encourage my teen to ask for help on important decisions.
- I encourage my family to eat dinner together frequently.
- I do not furnish alcohol to minors.
- I do not allow teens to consume alcohol in my home.
Be Active OnlineIf your children spend a lot of time online, ask them what kinds of websites they like to use, and if they are members of any social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace. If you don’t have an account on one of these sites, set one up yourself or ask your child to do it with you. Being familiar with these sites will help you understand how your children talk with their friends. Inviting your children to add you to their "friend" list will open another line of communication that your children are already using.
For tips on texting, visit our Text Your Teen section.