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So, What Do You Do If You Catch Your Kid with Alcohol

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The reason for this month’s column is the fact that every April we celebrate Alcohol Awareness Month. Alcohol Awareness Month was established in 1987 to help reduce the stigma so often associated with alcoholism by encouraging communities to reach out to the American public each April with information about alcohol, alcoholism and recovery. Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease, genetically predisposed and fatal if untreated. However people can and do recover. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 20 million individuals and family members are living lives in recovery!

I am sure many of you can identify with this -- the time your teenager get into situations or become curious about the use of alcohol.

As a parent, you want to be proactive in having conversations with your teen about the dangers of drinking early. If they do fall into experimenting with alcohol, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem, but it is important to sit down and discuss the event or situation together.

As a parent myself, I know that no matter what I say or do, or how proactive I am, my teen was likely to make mistakes. As scary as that is for us, we also know there are lessons learned when they make that poor choice. It provides an opportunity to learn and advance their own understanding and to make better choices next time.

Given that alcohol is legal for adults and there is easy access, teens do often experiment with it. Once you become aware of this, it is a great opportunity to have a conversation with your teen about its dangers. Here are some tips for tackling this difficult conversation:

  • The most appropriate time for a conversation to be well received is at a neutral time when both of you have calmed down. Take some time before having the conversation to think through the points you would like to make and allow a break in the conversation if anger or frustration elevates.
  • Explain clearly the expectation surrounding use of alcohol and concern for the choice they made in using.
  • Allow your teen to explain and describe the situation that led up to use, and allow them to describe the situation, their thoughts and feelings.
  • Respond with an understanding or validation of their thoughts or feelings. Help them think about how they could respond to a similar situation without using alcohol in the future.
  • Explore what coping mechanisms the teen is missing and give suggestions to prevent the situation from repeating. Suggest alternative ways to handle the situation.
  • Be consistent in providing the consequence for the poor choice and reiterate the concern you have for your teen using alcohol. Your message should relate back to their specific interests, goals and future desires.
  • Relay that, as a parent, when trust is violated, work has to be done to regain that back, and you will now be looking for signs and communication to show that trust is rebuilding. Remind them you need to have confidence that they are not engaging in further alcohol use.
  • Welcome open dialogue about their concerns in avoiding further alcohol use and provide alternative ideas for socializing that doesn’t include alcohol.

The reasons teens often give for turning to alcohol or drug use include trying to fit in, escaping pain, boredom, curiosity, the thrill of taking a risk and being unaware of the true effects.

Talking with your teen about alternative means of dealing with some of these challenging situations or difficulties not only opens the lines of communication, but allows for your teen to problem solve and gain confidence in their self-worth.

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Monday, 10 December 2018

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