A teen I talked to recently was surprisingly candid about her summertime fun at the beach. “My friends and I have a special spot far from where families go and out of sight of the lifeguards. We’re not supposed to bring in alcohol,” she laughed, “but someone always manages to spike a watermelon or smuggle in a cooler of beer so we can party.”
She loves the sun — and alcohol-soaked afternoons. She loves the late-night gatherings under the stars. “We have our own place and our own friends and no one gives us a hard time about drinking.”
When I asked about parental supervision, she laughed some more. “It’s summer. No school. Our folks go to bed before we come home and go to work before we get up. As long as we get to our jobs and do a little around the house, parents don’t bother us.”
I wish the parents would “bother” them. Flying under the radar of adult supervision, these kids are drinking and they are drinking too much.
Many parents don’t talk to their kids about alcohol because they are unaware of how serious the problem is. Studies have shown that parents tend to underestimate their own children’s behavior around alcohol. One study showed that a significant number of parents surveyed believed that their kids’ friends would drink and drive but didn’t believe their own children would do so.
Another study showed that while 71 percent of the teens in the sample reported that they had been to places where other teens were drinking, only 54 percent of the parents were aware of it. And, according to a 2015 survey by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, about 1 in 7 teens binge drinks yet only 1 in 100 parents believes his or her own teen does it.
Parents can have more influence than they think they do. Parental monitoring matters. Talking proactively matters as well. If you have a child who is in the pre-teen years, it is not too early to start discussing alcohol-related behavior. If your child is already a teen, it’s never too late to have that conversation.
Here are some tips for dealing with teens and alcohol: