#AskAlyson: How can I help my teen navigate the world of alcohol

When it comes to alcohol, many teens report that they didn’t say “no” because they didn’t want to deal with social ridicule.

Alyson Schafer 3 minute read March 23, 2022
Teenager drinking beer

Teens will find themselves in situations where alcohol is available, how you navigate that situation is within your control. GETTY

Dear Alyson,

My son is 15, he is a good kid with good friends — I think he is awesome.

He recently came home and told me that he was at a friend’s house and one of the girls had paid someone to buy vodka and they were mixing vodka with pop. I thought it was great that he was honest with me, but now I am torn. I know who the girl is and would like to let her parents know what’s happening, but at the same time, I value my son’s trust in me. He is certain if I speak to her mom, the whole group will find out and he will be made fun of. I really don’t know how to handle this.

Signed,
Conflicted Mom

Dear Conflicted Mom,

It is great that you have a son who feels comfortable speaking openly to you. I want other parents reading this to know that a wonderful response to a teen who shares any confessional with a parent is “thanks for telling me — I bet that took some courage.”

It’s important to raise children who can manage such challenging social situations. But we can’t help support, advise or guide our teens if they stop sharing the about the sticky situations and turmoil they are going through.

We can’t control situations, but we can guide

Teens will find themselves in situations where alcohol is available, whether it is with this group of friends, or others in the future. We can’t control the external experiences that will present themselves to our children, but we can help guide them in how to conduct themselves such precarious situations.

In the case of alcohol, teens report that they didn’t say “no” because they didn’t want to have to deal with social ridicule, so it’s important to help them plan a better way to say “no” that allows them to save face. Some examples include, “I can’t. I’m on medication that I can’t take with alcohol,” or “I wish I could, but it gives me migraines.” Brainstorm some good responses that feel authentic to them so they are not frozen with panic trying to think on their feet in the moment.

It takes a village to raise a child, and while other parents do expect us to keep an eye on their teens, this was a single and fairly innocent incident. Sure, if you thought the other teen was becoming addicted, or at risk of harm, I might share my concerns and observations with their parent. If the same small group hangs out all the time together and you know the other parents, you might talk as a parent community, sharing that the kids are starting to drink, and discuss together how everyone might handle this. But there is no need to single out any one person or event.

Your first concern is your son and you did a great job of navigating this one.

Alyson Schafer is one of Canada’s leading parenting experts. She can be reached at hello@alysonschafer.com or on social media @alysonschafer.
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