Your teens are always at risk for underage drinking and there are countless opportunities for them to test the limits. That's their job as teenagers. Our job as parents is to make the limits clear and monitor them - where they go, what they do, how they act and more. This kind of monitoring is not a violation of trust - rather it should be a regular and expected part of parenting throughout the pre-teen and teen years.
Many parents told us that they would do more to keep their teens from underage drinking - if only they knew what to do. Other parents felt that they had already done all that they could, and were surprised to learn that they could do more.
Your teen expects you to keep them from drinking. It is okay to monitor what they do. We've tried to make it easier - for helpful information and tips on what you can do to prevent underage drinking, see Find Out More, Do More - 5 TIPS to Prevent Underage Drinking.
Five Tips for Preventing Underage Drinking
Tip 1 - Limit Access
- GOOD - If you have alcohol in your home, keep track of it. Know what and how much you have, and keep it where it is not accessible to teens.
- BETTER - Thank store clerks when you see them card someone who is buying alcohol
- BEST - Alert the police if you have information about where/how teens are getting alcohol in your community.
Tip 2 - Network
- GOOD - Get to know your teens' friends.
- BETTER - Get to know the parents of your teens' friends. Know their rules so you don't have to just accept the argument "everybody else is allowed to..."
- BEST - Let the parents of your teens friends know your rules, and where you stand on underage alcohol use—no furnishing, ever.
Tip 3 - Reinforce and Enforce
- GOOD - Reinforce the rules and consequences of underage drinking before your teen goes out.
- BETTER - Frequently explain the reasons behind the rules so your teen understands the rules are a protective measure, not just a restriction on their freedom.
- BEST - Enforce your rules consistently. Don't look the other way if your teens violate the rules: they need to know that you are serious about the rules and that you will hold them accountable for violating them.
Tip 4 - Check In Often
- GOOD - Before your teen goes to a party or out with friends, ask if adults will be present and if alcohol will be present.
- BETTER - Ask your teen to call you from the party or gathering; if you have caller ID, you can ask them to use a landline, not a cell phone so that you can tell where they actually are when they call.
- BEST - Trust but verify. check in with other parents about your teens' activities or drop by once in a while where your teen tells you they will be.
Tip 5 - Be Up and Be Ready
- GOOD - Wait up, or set the alarm for curfew time - talk with your teen about their night.
- BETTER - When your teen arrives home, look for signs of use. Teens who believe their parents would catch them are less likely to drink.
- BEST - Be prepared in advance for what you would do the FIRST time you discover that your teen has been drinking. Think ahead of time about how you want to react, who you would talk to, how you would enforce the consequences.
Teens & Alcohol
Many Montana teens do not use alcohol, yet because they live in an environment that heavily promotes and enables alcohol use, all teens are at risk. The Montana 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a statewide survey, reported that 76% of Montana high school students have had a drink of alcohol in their lifetime, and 30% of Montana high school students reported binge drinking during the past 30 days; a rate that in 2007 was the highest in the nation.
Some people believe that if the drinking age were lower, like in Europe, teens would drink less. An interesting article by Aaron White, PhD, a leading national researcher in the prevention field addresses this issue. Read Should Parents Follow the European Model? (PDF) for more on the subject.