How do I handle my young teenager’s exposure to alcohol?
My daughter’s 13 and has already been to two parties where alcohol was present. At one, a boy snuck in the bottle in his back pack.
In another, the parents reportedly allowed the girl to pour a “small amount” of alcohol for each of the ten young guests. I was shocked!
I told my daughter that, since she knew that I don’t approve of anyone her age drinking alcohol, she should’ve phoned her father or me to come pick her up from those parties.
She said she was sorry, and that was it.
Do I stop letting her go to house parties at this age? What do you suggest?
You need a two-way conversation with your daughter. Remember, this whole teenage world is as new to her as it is to you.
Thinking ahead to potentially bad consequences isn’t a common teenage trait. She needs to be helped to understand why you worry about certain behaviours and events, especially when she’s not at home.
Next comes a chat in which you both discuss how she can handle such situations.
Yes, boundaries are important, but if they’re issued as punishments, they create resentment.
Early teenagers often try alcohol due to peer pressure and to feel some independence from their parents.
So talk about why alcohol creates problems for her. She knows little about its negative effects or health risks, and how easily at this age she can become very sick or pass out, especially if she binge drinks (common among young drinkers).
Explain that teenage brains - not fully developed until age 25 - are more vulnerable to alcohol.
Mention that if one of the older teens has a driver’s license and offers a lift, that person’s driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous for passengers and others on the road.
Tell her the legal age when people can drink alcohol in your jurisdiction. Explain that, if it became obvious that an underage person or group have been drinking, they can be charged by the police, with serious consequences (tell her these, according to the laws where you live).
All this can take several conversations… but lectures aren’t as effective.
Then, ask your daughter what she thinks she should do if the line for underage drinking is being crossed by a friend or a group, when she’s present.
She’ll know what you want her to say, but let her talk it through on her own.
Privately, you should also pursue the “parent” rumour that underage teens were supplied with alcohol. If true, they need to know their legal liability under “social hosting laws” if they give alcohol to minors and any mishap occurs to one or more of them.
If there’s a house party, call parents ahead to assure the location, that there’ll be no alcohol, and that parents or other adult supervision will be present.
Some parents introduce modest acquaintance with alcohol to their own children, as a way of making it less enticing. But that should only be within their own family.
With your daughter, keep the dialogue going. Bring an open mind to these talks, and remain curious and attentive about her opinions.
Listen to her stories when she’s been out, or a gathering’s being planned. Discuss together how she can handle different possible scenarios.
Ask her for a regular check-in while she’s out, and assure her that she can be picked up at any time.
FEEDBACK Regarding the granddaughter worried about how her aunt handled the older woman’s Alzheimer’s and move to a nursing home (Oct. 7):
Reader – “Even if the aunt lives nearest to her mother, she has a responsibility to let her siblings know their mother’s condition. Blocking all contact is a red flag.
“I’d be suspicious of financial elder abuse, and this elderly Mom is now isolated and very vulnerable. If this aunt has nothing to hide, she should be welcoming of family members who want to visit.
“If it were my Mom, and I didn't get a good feeling, I’d hire a lawyer. The other siblings have a right to a portion of their Mom's estate even if they want to leave their portion available for Mom's care.
“Family members should be able to have some mementos, at least.”
Ellie - The grandmother’s adult children didn’t want to pursue this.
Tip of the day:
Underage drinking is a serious health, safety and legal issue for young teens.