The difficulty of parenting through the teenage years is a cliché for good reason. Teenagers are challenged with more temptation than they’ve experienced thus far. Parents are trying to determine which boundaries to set and when it’s best to allow a bit of freedom. Your child is on the cusp of adulthood, and this means making adult decisions. Gone are the days of harmless birthday parties. Now you have to contend with parties at other people’s houses, that may or may not be supervised, and trust your child will make good decisions about drugs and alcohol.
When your child asks to go to a party where you suspect alcohol will be present, your first step should be to have an open dialogue with them. Like many other difficult topics to talk about with your teen, starting a conversation about drugs and alcohol may be an uncomfortable or fraught one. Remember that you are the parent and they are still your child. School psychologist Stephen Gray Wallace explains the authoritative parenting style is the most effective when talking to kids about making good decisions. Establish clear expectations and rules, but make sure to allow your child to vent about what they are feeling. Peer pressure is no joke and teenage brains are hardwired to seek instant rewards, so chances are your child is feeling conflicted about trying drugs or alcohol, even if they know it is dangerous.
Try talking with your child about what the draws are to drinking. Ask them why the kids who drink seem to be more cool or popular than the other kids and explain that the consequences of drinking are often not cool at all. Also discuss the appealing qualities about the kids who stay sober at parties. They are not the kids getting sick, saying or doing things that will be embarrassing the next day, or making life threatening decisions.
Karen Khaleghi, who is the co-founder of Creative Care Malibu, says that most kids will use the argument “everyone is drinking,” but research shows that only half of teenagers are drinking alcohol, so you can explain to your child that they can always choose to be part of the other half.
Studies show the number of parents that allow kids to drink under their supervision is on the rise. Wallace suggests that calling parents and asking if there will be alcohol present is a good idea. It’s not enough anymore to simply ask parents if they will be home.
Your child may feel frustrated or angry that you want to know ahead of time if alcohol will be present at a party or if they plan to be drinking alcohol while at a party. He or she may argue that “everyone is drinking” and if parents are there to supervise it’s no big deal. Explain to your child that it is not the decision of somebody else’s parents whether or not they should be given alcohol. If a parent wishes to take that risk with his or her own child then that’s their decision, but you do not want your child put in a situation that could potentially be dangerous without your knowledge.
Resources for teenage use of alcohol: