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When You Discover Your Teen Has Been Drinking

Aug 04, 2015

Many parents would like to assume that their child would never drink alcohol or even consider underage drinking. However, while most parents would say their kids are not drinking, most teens you ask would say that they are drinking. This incongruity shows that parents need to be prepared for anything, even if they do not expect their teen to engage in risky behavior such as underage drinking.

One expert, Julie Foudy, says that the first step in handling a child who has been drinking is to make it clear you are on their side. As parents, we try to make decisions with our child’s best interest in mind. What we envision as the best path for our children might not be what they have in mind for themselves. By engaging in a dialogue with your teen, you can start to reconcile these potentially different paths.

When you find your teen drinking for the first time, it is important to remain composed and avoid going off on your teen. Have a conversation. Make sure your child understands the consequences of underage drinking in both the short and the long term.

Another expert, Michael R. Fields, notes that it is important to consider from where your teen is getting the alcohol—your home? Friends? If your child has access to alcohol in your home and is abusing the access, it could be time to re-evaluate what you want to keep in your home. If your teen is drinking with friends, that could mean you need to monitor with whom your child is spending his or her time.

Teen Drinking

In dealing with first offenses, be decisive. Know what to do now that the rules of the house have been violated. There must be consequences for your teen, says parenting expert, Ralph S. Blackman. Make sure your child knows that the rules should stand in other circumstances as well (like no drinking at home means no drinking at a friends home).

Consequences can include being grounded. However, consequences only work when you stick to whatever you decide because if you don’t, you undermine your authority.

Ultimately, teens are not good at contextualizing their actions so you have to find a way to make this activity seem unattractive to them in the present. If you find that you are having trouble getting through to your teen, it could be time to get a professional involved.

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Ralph S. Blackman
President and CEO of FAAR

About Ralph S. Blackman

Mr. Ralph S. Blackman is currently the President and CEO of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, founded in 1991, has received nearly $250 million dollars from the distilled spirits industry to fight drunk driving and underage drinking. Mr. Blackman began his tenure at the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility in 1996 as Vice President for Public Affairs. Currently, Mr. Blackman is responsible for strategic planning, operations, and management of 15 staff members.

In 1992, Mr. Blackman was appointed by President George Bush as the Assistant Administrator for Private Enterprise within the U.S. Agency for International Development. Mr. Blackman oversaw a staff of 100 professionals, a program budget of nearly $40 million, and a $220 million portfolio of U.S. government loans designed to stimulate growth in developing countries around the world. Mr. Blackman represented the agency on the President's Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee and at meetings of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Prior to joining the Bush Administration, Mr. Blackman founded Public Access Inc., a corporate relations firm headquartered in Washington, DC. As President of the firm, Mr. Blackman and his staff provided public affairs and international trade-related assistance to clients interested in business ventures abroad. Blackman and the firm were responsible for facilitating the creation of the first nationwide chain of franchised computer outlets in Hungary.

In 1986, Mr. Blackman was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the Associate Director of the White House Conference on Small Business. In addition to organizing conferences held in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Mr. Blackman was responsible for liaison with congressional leaders and federal agencies, and supervised the preparation of the Final Report to the President.

In 1981, Mr. Blackman joined the Republican National Committee where he held the positions of Local Elections Field Representative, Regional Political Director and Director of Business Programs.

From 1976 to 1980, Mr. Blackman served the Governor of Illinois as a Legislative Assistant and the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives with the responsibility for economic and business development issues.

Mr. Blackman is an alumnus of Leadership Washington. He also sat on the Faberge Arts Foundation Advisory Board, was a member of the Dept. of Commerce's Industry Sector Advisory Committee for Small Business and Trade Policy, and served on the "Competing in the Global Marketplace" council of the National Policy Forum. Mr. Blackman was recognized by the University of Illinois Alumni Association with the 2014 Alumni Achievement Award.

An Illinois native, Mr. Blackman graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Western Illinois University. In 1976, he completed his Master of Arts degree in public administration from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Mr. Blackman recently received his Mixologist Diploma from the Professional Bartending School in Arlington, VA.