Alcohol poses a serious threat to young adults as they navigate their widening world.

How to Approach Young Adults and Teenagers About Drinking

by Shellie Braeuner

The teenage and early adult years are times of exploration for young people. New freedoms remove parents' rules as children move out on their own or go to college. According to the National Institutes of Health website, about a third of teens between the ages of 16 and 20 and half of the young people between the ages of 21 and 25 who die in car accidents tested positive for alcohol. There are things that parents can do to help teens and young adults make the right decision.

Recognize the problem. New stresses put pressure on your child as she starts to pay her own bills and balance work, education and social responsibilities. Some young adults look for release through alcohol. According to the NIH site, it’s not just the fact that young people drink that is a problem, but how they drink. Teens and young adults tend to binge drink, consuming five or more drinks in an evening. In addition, the teen brain is still growing. Alcohol affects the teen and young adult brain differently. Alcohol use and heavy drinking can permanently alter the brain’s function.

Model appropriate drinking. Parents continue to have an influence over teen and young adult drinking. The NIH website states that young adults learn to drink from their parents. When parents drink heavily, teens drink heavily. Teens and young adults also tend to copy the context for drinking. Young people who watch parents drink at home tend to do the same. To prevent binge drinking, practice moderate drinking at home.

Talk to your child. Keep the lines of communication open with your child. This means talking about a lot of other things besides drinking. Talking with your child about balancing work, school and social life gives him a safety valve for his stress. Encourage conversations about his interests. Listening carefully and giving him your undivided attention shows him that you care. Don’t lecture. Instead, listen calmly more than you speak.

Discuss alcohol. Talk to your child about drinking. Discuss the effects alcohol can have on the body and mind. If you have a family history of alcoholism, this is an appropriate time to discuss it. There may be a genetic component to alcoholism, and a history of the problem puts your teen at greater risk. If your child asks about your young drinking experiences, be honest. Share an embarrassing anecdote and what you learned from your own bad decision.

Give your child some practice. Handling peer pressure and social gatherings without drinking can be tough. Give your child the chance to practice dealing with those issues under your supervision. Discuss different ways to deflect peer pressure. Pretend to be a friend trying to talk your teen into drinking. Go ahead and laugh with your child -- make it fun. Let your child practice her social skills under your watchful eyes. Plan an alcohol-free party. Stay vigilant, but in the background. If anyone brings alcohol, quietly ask the person to leave.


  • If you suspect your underage child is drinking or that your young adult is binge drinking, confront the behavior and seek help.

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.

Photo Credits

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