Talking about underage drinking: The tough questions
“Because I said so.”
That is a lousy answer to any question your teen has – especially questions about underage drinking.
Before having a talk about underage drinking, do your research. There are a lot of misunderstandings and myths surrounding the subject, so make sure you have all the data you need to have a successful talk with your teen about underage drinking.
Answering questions about underage drinking
The parent-teen relationship is a fragile one that is built on mutual respect; show your teen respect by giving real answers to real questions.
Question: Why 21?
Answer: This number is not arbitrary; there is a lot of reasoning behind the drinking age being 21. The major reason is that the teen brain is still sensitive and growing. Studieshave shown that adolescents take more risks due to their brain chemistry and drinking alcohol makes teens even more likely to take risks – dangerous risks.
Another study found that teens are more prone to addiction, which is why people who have their first drink at age 14 or younger are 6 times more likely to develop alcohol problems than those who don’t try alcohol until the legal drinking age.
Q: Shouldn’t teens learn to drink responsibly from parents?
A: It sounds harsh, but no underage drinking is responsible drinking. A recent studyfound that the parents who are more accepting of teen drinking in high school were more likely to have children who engaged in risky drinking behaviors in college, compared to those children who had parents that were less accepting.
You can teach your children to drink responsibly once they are 21.
Q: Everyone else drinks alcohol….
A: This is a giant misconception. Most teens don’t drink! A study found that 3 out of 4 high school students don’t drink alcohol.
At HEARTS, we have created a campaign to show youth that most teens don’t drink because much of people’s behavior is influenced by their perceptions of what is “normal” or “typical.” If teens think most others drink, they are more likely to drink.
Q: If teens are going to drink, wouldn’t it be best to do it with your supervision?
A: It is not your decision to make whether or not other teens can drink at their home. It is up to their parents and it is disrespectful and dangerous to let other people’s children drink at your home. You are also undermining your own authority by sending mixed signals to your own children about the safety of drinking.
On top of all that, you only have perceived control over the teens in your home. There have been plenty of underage drinking accidents under adult supervision. A bi-product of accidents could also bring about legal charges and fees; whereby you may be charged with ‘contributing to the delinquency of a minor’; a ‘disorderly home’; or ‘provision to a minor’.
If your teen has more questions, remember that you have a world of knowledge at your fingertips. Look up the answer online together or tell your teen that you will research the answer for your next talk.