What do you do if your teen is drinking?

Teenagers resort to drinking alcohol for a variety of reasons: social pressure, stress relief, to feel grown-up or out of curiosity. Some teens drink alcohol occasionally at parties, while others become addicted and cannot control their intake. If you notice that your child returns from a party or disco smelling of alcohol and that his speech and movements are clumsy, it's a sign that he has been drinking. Avoid self-blame; children from all walks of life experiment with drinking. Show your love by helping your teen overcome his addiction to drinking as fast as possible.

The first plan of action is to confront your child with your suspicions and present evidence, such as empty beer cans found in the garbage. It's crucial to have this discussion with your teen when you are both calm and sober and in a non-confrontational tone. Find out the extent of his drinking and explain why you are concerned. Discuss the dangers of underage drinking and suggest ways he could stand up to social pressure. Teach your teen how to say "no" when offered a drink and brainstorm about alternatives to drinking alcohol. Clearly state your family's expectations and rules about drinking, and diligently enforce consequences when the rules are broken.

Teenagers who develop positive outside interests are less likely to spend time drinking. Encourage your teen to join a sports team, volunteer or get a part-time job. Get to know your teen's friends and monitor how they spend their time. Together with his friends' parents, establish rules on drinking. This way your child won't be singled out from the crowd as not being allowed to drink. Finally, if you feel your teen's drinking is out of control, seek professional help from a counselor or physician. Help him learn how to deal with depression, stress or family problems without turning to alcohol.