Many concerned parents often wonder what the causes of teenage drinking are and if identifying them can help prevent the causes of underage drinking. It’s no wonder they are concerned – underage teenagers who drink are at risk for legal consequences such as stiff penalties and fines, and underage drinking is often associated with drunk driving and alcohol poisoning, both of which can be fatal.
Here are some of the common causes of teenage drinking:
It relaxes them: Being a teenager is never easy. Even for well-off seemingly achieving teenagers, there is a lot of stress and pressure to get good grades and live up to their family’s expectations. For others, it can be a way of coping with other problems or stress in their lives.
A teenager experiencing alcohol for the first time will likely be attracted to its ability to make them feel care-free and forget about their troubles for a little while, making it likely they will be seeking to try it again.
Automatic Inclusion: Everybody as a teenager always want to feel like they are included. Whether it’s by being invited to the big party at someone’s house or thinking it will make their friends think they are cool, drinking it a simple way to acheive that automatic “I fit in, I belong” sense. It also can cross the divides of the standard social classes of “jock” and “nerd” since it suddenly becomes a mutual interest.
Genetic Disposition: Alcoholism has been often considered a genetic disease, as many families can trace a line of repeated alcohol and drug abuse or mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder.
If an underage teenager is already at risk for this, it is not surprising that their teenage drinking can quickly become a habit that may last well into adulthood. For teens who may already have a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness, alcohol may be their way of subconsciously self-medicating themselves.
Parental Influence: It’s tough being a parent when it comes to your influence on your teenager drinking. Be too strict or too uptight, and they might blame that for their rebellious side.
On the other hand, if you’re too lenient and relaxed, they will feel like you don’t care what they do anyways and that you’re not paying any attention. Some teenagers may even drink subconciously wanting that negative attention from their parents. If you catch your teen drinking, it’s equally important to analyze your own behavior.
Underlying Causes: As mentioned above, for many teenagers drinking is a solution for their problems. Maybe they’re bored, maybe they feel lonely, maybe they have an untreated condition that needs addressed.
These underlying causes can be difficult to identify, especially if you as a parent are not having the best of relationships with your child. But once they are identified and addressed, you may be able to curb the causes of teenage drinking.
Public Education Health Classes: This is one no expert will admit to, but kids each year are brainwashed to sit in health classes and other public education programs to teach them the dangers of alcohol use. They may watch movies or read stories about teenagers drinking. Sure, while the classes try to stress the negative effects of alcohol, it can spark interest in a subject they otherwise may not even think about. The snickering of other students can further ignite their curiousity on what it feels like to be drunk and what will happen to them if they drink.
Social Media: This of course leads to another potential indirect factor. While its hard to believe that seeing movies about people drinking or beer commercials on TV or even a song might influence your teenager, it is likely that it subconciously shapes their values that drinking is a normal part of life.
Now that you understand the causes of teenage drinking, you may wonder what you as a parent can do to prevent underage drinking. Here are some ideas:
1. Create an Open Relationship With Your Child: This isn’t easy to do, especially when hormones are raging and in the teenage years the parent often seems to be the enemy. Talk TO them, not at them. And listen to what they have to say. Sometimes parents don’t give kids enough time to talk and really explain what’s going on. Once you establish this, it opens the door to seek alternative solutions for your child instead of drinking.
2. Identify Problems Early: Parents often want to deny that something could be wrong with their child, especially when it concerns their behavior or emotional state. Instead, be proactive. If you notice issues with a 5 year old child, address them before he or she reaches 10 or even 15.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Counseling: Encourage counseling even if you don’t see any obvious signs of a problem. Counseling should be seen in a positive light, not as punishment for something they did wrong. It should never be used as a threat, but seen as a solution. If you and your teenager are having communication problems or you are worried about their new extra curricular activities with drinking or drug use, don’t wait until something terrible or dramatic happens. School guidance counselors or your health insurance plan should be able to help you find the right kind of assistance for your individual needs.
4. Become Involved: Many teenagers don’t feel like their parents care or understand. If you’re not spending at least one hour of one-on-one time with your teenager without distractions such as television or phone calls, you’re not involved enough. Find fun activities the two of you enjoy, or even create an atmosphere where your teenager and his or her friends can have a good time without the use of alcohol or drugs.
5. Don’t Encourage Drinking: Some parents may bargain with their child, saying you can drink if you don’t drive, or some may even buy their children alcohol. Obviously this only enables them to begin underage drinking. Be firm, and let your teenager know that you care and do not want them drinking. Brainstorm for alternative things they can do instead of turning to drugs or alcohol.
Now that you understand the causes of teenage drinking and what you as a parent can do, you can help take some important steps in preventing and curbing your child’s underage drinking.