After the news of Douglas Gansler’s (Attorney General of Maryland) visit to a teenage Senior Week Party where alcohol was being served, parents all over the nation are no doubt pondering their responsibility when it comes to keeping their teens from underage drinking. It is no great secret that parenting is a difficult task and one of the most difficult parts of parenting a teenager can be the process of keeping them from engaging in risky behaviors like drinking and drug-use.
We’re here today to offer you some ideas for keeping your teenager away from alcohol.
1. Always keep communication open in your home // It is extremely important that you foster good, honest, and open communication with your child from their earliest age so that when the turbulent teen years hit, you have a firm foundation of trust and communication.
2. Make rules and boundaries clear // Vague reprimands or empty threats will not help your teen to make good decisions. Rules about their activities and behaviors should be clear with consequences for stepping out of line. This doesn’t make you a “mean” parent. This makes you a firm, caring, loving parent.
3. Be active in your teen’s life // Don’t expect your teenager to be completely self-reliant and independent. They are, after all, still growing up and they need attentive, involved parents. Stay informed on what’s going on in their social lives, academic sphere, and personal goals.
4. Know where your teen is at all times // Again, checking up on your child doesn’t make you Big Brother. Knowing exactly where your teenager is at all times is a great way to ensure their safety and that you approve of their surroundings. Have your teen inform you of their whereabouts at all times so that you can be available at any second if there is an emergency and so that you can make boundaries clear.
5. Be respectful // Respect is a two-way street. Yes, you desire your teen to respect you, but it is also just as important that you treat your children with respect and love. The old adage, “treat others as you want to be treated”, definitely applies to parenting in many ways.
6. Establish healthy models of alcohol consumption // If alcohol is a taboo subject in your home (i.e., never discussed, never seen, never consumed by adults) it can create an idea for teens that alcohol is some delicious “forbidden fruit” that is being withheld from them. Discuss proper and safe of-legal-age alcohol consumption practices and model that behavior for your children if you choose to drink. If you choose not to drink and feel strongly about that, discuss it with your teens and explain your reasoning.
7. Refuse to host underage drinking parties at your home // It’s unsafe, it can lead to accidents, fatalities, and legal action. Just say, “NO”.
8. Be a safe place for teens who choose not to drink // Host safe, alcohol-free parties for your teens and their friends. It’s a great way to get to know your child’s community and to present yourself and your home as a safe, exciting alternative to the dangerous party scene.
9. Stay current with your research // Be prepared to give your teen accurate, current statistics about the dangers of underage drinking and have an arsenal of true stories, articles, and movies about the danger of alcohol consumption by minors. Being wise about the realities of underage drinking will help your teens to see you as an informed authority vs. just an “over-protective” parent.
10. Be gracious and merciful // Everyone makes mistakes. If your teen ends up drinking, lovingly make it clear that behavior of that sort is unacceptable and provide discipline in a just and gracious way. Flying off the handle and irrational, controlling words and behaviors will not help the situation.
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