Teens and Alcohol

This month’s issue concerns eating and drinking, and I feel that one of the most important issues for parents with teenagers is teens and alcohol use.

Children of all ages, as we know, like to test personal and social boundaries. With teens, this can involve trying out new substances, like alcohol, that can be harmful. There are many reasons why a teen might use alcohol – for example, curiosity, peer pressure, or trying to copy adult behaviour to feel more “grown up.”

Some of the Facts*:

  • Many teens abuse alcohol.
  • Using alcohol and tobacco at a young age increases the risk of stronger drug usage later.
  • Beer and wine are not “safer” than spirits.
  • Alcohol-related car crashes are a leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults.

These are somber facts. Is there anything we parents can do?

I would say to keep the conversation “open” and welcome discussion. Talk about your thoughts on the subject and bring in your own values, to give your teens reasons not to drink. My teens have told me that they sometimes discuss these issues in school; when my older son was around 13 his school devoted a whole day to teen drinking, with various presentations and discussions.

Talk about some practical guidelines. For example, being a passenger in a car with a driver who has been drinking will not be tolerated. It is important that teens understand the risks associated with drinking alcohol.

Be a good role model. You yourself should drink responsibly, and never drink and drive! It may sound obvious, but don’t serve alcohol to your teens and their friends, and LOCK the drinks cabinet. I know at least two friends who have come home to find that their drinks cabinets have been raided.

Finally, it is definitely beneficial to encourage your teen to develop healthy outside interests. Some ideas are: joining a team or a club, becoming a volunteer and helping others, or learning to play (or continuing to play) an instrument. My 17-year-old whiles away many hours practising his guitar – it’s great to listen to, and I always know where he is!

I hope that these tips help with this complicated issue. Please share your experiences and any advice with others on this page – it is important to discuss these topics and help each other.

Bye for now!

By Heidi

Heidi is a mum of two teenagers and an eight-year-old. She is originally from Wales, UK and has been living in Switzerland for 17 years.

Illustration by Laura Munteanu

Laura has studied Journalism and Advertising, and has worked as a journalist and an illustrator. She has illustrated for magazines, websites, charity and various campaigns. Laura lives in Zurich with her husband and 5 year old daughter.

Century Council
National Council on  Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
The American Medical Association

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