Those parties that your child’s friends host, Friday night football games, and those unsupervised road trips can be enough to make you worry about all the hazards your child will face. It’s also enough to make you ask, is your teenager drinking? After all, most of us remember what it was like to be a teen, and when we remember some of the incidents that we pulled off, it can be hard to believe that your child hasn’t been out there in the world doing something you don’t want them to. Teenage drinking is one of the top three concerns that keep parents up at night worrying and wondering.
It doesn’t help that many of the superstars that our kids today find so appealing have had such issues with drinking and drugs themselves. We already know that our kids tend to find superstars to be satisfactory role models. As we watched the headlines recently show one disturbed drunkard photograph after another, didn’t most of us wonder what affect it might have had on our kids? Even those teens who were not taken in by the Brittney’s and Lindsay’s of yesterday’s news, there is still a certain amount of desensitization that occurs when stories of excessive drinking are plastered all over the headlines of the entertainment industry.
Of course, a certain amount of anti—drinking campaigns and student education can help. As much as kids will zone out or spout off the information as though they’ve heard it too much and they get it already, the more they hear it the more we fight desensitization. Local jails, police facilities, and even some morgues offer some pretty shocking and detailed true life reality checks that show the down side of drinking. Because of the often gruesome results, most experts suggest holding off on this tactical effort to prevent teen drinking unless you are dealing with an alcoholic and all other intervention attempts have failed.
But wait, you say. I haven’t answered yes to the question as of yet. Why go straight for hard line prevention methods if I am not even sure? Good point but bear with me here. Prevention is always necessary. For about 75% to 85% of high school kids over the age of 14, the question isn’t is your teenager drinking, but how much has your teenage had to drink? Drinking, like drugs, is a rampant problem throughout our youth today. Most kids have had at least something to drink from time to time. And it doesn’t just happen when they are out with their friends. Many teenagers have admitted to drinking during parties their own parents have either attended or thrown with a room full of grown ups (parents included) somehow missing the punch in their hand. It’s not uncommon for kids to try a few shots and administer that whole water down the vodka trick on a snow day or after school just out of curiosity. Just like when you tell your daughter her boyfriend is off limits, when we make something so taboo but the opportunity still presents itself, childlike curiosity usually wins out.
Does that mean you have to rush your teenager to the nearest morgue to witness the effects of drunk driving? Of course not. My goodness, didn’t we do at least as much when we were kids? It means that we have to have a realistic approach to our children as they start to grow up. They now have the ability to think out sophisticated plans and leap through some tremendous hoops to get what they want but they still have enough innocent thinking to believe that there won’t be any harsh consequence. Unless they get caught. There is a big difference between curiosity drinking and drinking that is becoming habitual. Yes, your child has probably swigged some of the whiskey if you keep it in the house and ultimately found out that there is no good reason to enjoy the taste or the burn on its way down. But kids who drink regularly are struggling with a much larger demon than curiosity. Knowing the difference is crucial to determining whether or not your child is developing a drinking problem.
Kids with drinking problems show definite signs of having a problem. Poor school attendance and performance, staying out all night on a regular basis, sleeping half the day away even when obligations are calling, and developing a strong resentful attitude are just some of the more obvious characteristics of a teenage drinker. Additionally, there are usually physical signs, most of which you can smell. The aroma of alcohol doesn’t just leave the body. It can come through the pores via sweat. It can be smelled on the breath and even through almost any type of body excrement. Peppermint breath can also be a sign that your child is drinking. It’s not much a secret anymore that a swig or two of peppermint schnapps can cover up the breath of some of the most offensive drinking binges.
Talk to your kids often. Ask questions and probe a bit further, even if they don’t like you much for it at the time. Stick to your gut if you can’t shake the suspicion. Because alcoholic behavior sets in so quickly, it’s not that hard to remove the chance of any alcoholic substance entering your child’s gullet. Often just taking your child away on vacation for a week that restricts their ability to receive even just one drink can be enough to witness the agitation and withdrawal symptoms that can strike even a mild regular drinker. Of course, don’t forget that you’ll have to check out their belongings to make sure they didn’t bring any along for their own personal enjoyment. Kids who drink moderately to heavily will have a strong reaction to not being able to get their fix and will often make bold attempts to buy or steal what they are looking for.
Most kids who drink even only on rare occasion would like the chance to talk about it. Some kids are scared, have questions, and are aware enough of the consequences to be fearful for themselves. Being open in your dealings with your child is the number one way to ask the question. Is your teenager drinking? Probably at least every once in a great while. Do they have any drinking related issues that are developing? Getting them to open up and talk about it isn’t always as hard as it seems. Give it a go from time to time. The results may surprise you.