Teens and Underage Drinking: The Talk You Need to Have

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Teens and Underage Drinking- The Talk You Need to Have

There are few things that strike more fear into the heart of a parent than the thought of their teenager being involved in an alcohol-related car accident. When your teen starts driving, they can feel a new-found sense of independence that can lead them into trouble. Though the laws in the United States have set the legal drinking age at 21, it’s a sad fact of life that many of them have their first drink long before then.

Parties in high school or during the first years of college often encourage underage drinking and worse, getting behind the wheel. Even the smartest kids can make stupid decisions occasionally. Teenage drunk driving has scary consequences no matter where you live. In Florida, for example, if your teen is charged with a DUI it can lead to jail time and license suspensions. With your kid’s future at stake, it’s easy to see why having “the talk” with them sooner rather than later is so necessary. By following a few practical suggestions, you can prepare your teen for the road ahead.

Start The Drinking / Driving Convo Before They Can Drive

The group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says that nearly 11,000 Americans will die this year from drunk driving crashes. That’s almost one every 50 minutes. Additionally, it’s estimated that one person is injured from a drunk driving related crash every sixty seconds. With statistics as rampant as they are in the United States, there’s no need to wait until your teen is actually driving to start a conversation about alcohol use and abuse.

When your child enters high school, start talking about the potential of getting in a car with a driver who has been drinking. Discuss ideas on how they can deal with it, and also talk about peer pressure and what they can do to avoid those who are drinking before the legal age. By setting standards early, you’re more likely to lay the groundwork for your teen not going down the wrong path.

Educate Yourself On The Laws

Underage drinking and driving statutes, as well as practices, vary by state, so you need to familiarize yourself with your state’s laws regarding underage DUI charges as well as being at fault in alcohol-related car accidents.

For example, “the state of Florida breaks DUI vehicular accidents into three levels of severity: injury, serious bodily injury and, when death is involved, manslaughter. A conviction for DUI-related serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in jail and $5,000 fine. DUI/manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Florida, carrying with it a fine of up to $10,000 and 15 years in jail.” With statues like this, it’s always best practice to be safe than sorry and know your laws ahead of time.

Show Your Support

Though the drinking talk is hard, it’s a discussion you must have and important that your child feel that they can come to you without judgment or fear of punishment. Let your teen know that you will always come and get them or send a taxi with no questions asked. Underline that their safety is more important to you then punishing them.

Though obviously, you might have to have a talk about driving privileges should this happen, letting your teenager know that the door is always open helps them to feel more comfortable with asking for your help when they need it.

Lead by Example

If you truly want to make an impact on your child’s behavior, it’s important that you lead by example. Make a point of not drinking any alcohol if you are out for dinner and it’s your turn to drive even when you’re on vacation.

Starting this at an early age will set your child up to know that this is the right thing to do. Explain to your teen that even one drink can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle. Set a standard for your family and follow it.

 Disclosure

Krystle Cook - the creator of Home Jobs by MOM - put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.

Comments

  1. Holly Chavez says:

    Oh my goodness that is scary. As is we don’t have enough to worry about with just their driving. Thanks, Sarah. Some very helpful information.

  2. My Mother talked to me about drinking and drugs at a very young age. I think I was very open to it because she started before I was a teenager and was under any pressure to drink. That is a really good point about setting a good example from a young age. It seems to me that kids can tell when you are just talking or when you are following your own rules. Very scary stuff. I think drinking and driving would be one of the things that would frighten me most as a parent.

    • It’s a very good idea to talk to kids before they are well into their teens. Kids do everything earlier and earlier these days. Drinking and driving scares me to Erica!

  3. That’s a tough one but agree with you completely. Tough because I have never had to have the talk but did receive it when I was a teenager. As I look back I could have gotten myself in trouble so many times. Lucky I guess.

    • I know what you mean Tim! It’s that hindsight thing. A lot of teens are lucky but not all. Hopefully more talks can help more teens be safe.

  4. Ken Dowell says:

    The point about setting an example is a great one to emphasize. I remember my father would go out with the family and get smashed and while my mother would always insist on taking the wheel when that happened, I pretty much knew he would do the same thing when he was by himself. In a era when most teenagers have smart phones, maybe the first app they should bet is Uber.

  5. Sabrina q. says:

    So true. Great information. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Krystle, you are right on with this post. During the teenage years, peer opinion is much more important than the parents so chances are you will not prevent your teen from drinking. But you can and should give them alternatives. I remember a group of young people discussing this here at our home with the outcome “drinking and driving is just plain stupid”. They always went on to take turns being the designated driver.

    • Yes, unfortunately teens listen to their friends more than parents. Very typical. Just hopefully some of the things we say sink in.

  7. Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) says:

    Great information Krystal. I’m surprised by how many parents in this day and age DON”T have that talk! The ramifications are so dire then when I was a kid driving…and sneaking a beer! But the best best BEST thing you made clear is to lead by example! I think that’s key!

  8. Donna Janke says:

    It is an important conversation to have. In my home province, the legal drinking age is 18. When my daughter reached an age when she was driving places with friends, we reinforced that she shouldn’t hesitate to call us if her driver was drinking and we’d pick her up. Also tried to make sure there was cash at home in cash she needed to resort to a cab. As you point out, the parents’ examples are also crucial. Kids won’t listen to your words if your actions speak differently.

    • I know most people have their first drink well before the legal drinking age. It’s normal I guess. I will def keep your ideas in mind. They are SO helpful Donna!

  9. This is very sad that many kids now go into few bad habits due to company and get into trouble. I think all the tips and points mentioned are very good and it is utmost duty of parents to educate their children and let them know about the harmful affects of alcohol. We must stay away from it as much as possible. With the passage of time, the worries of parents are increasing. There are many accidents and deaths because of such issues. I hope that we will better guide our kids and avoid any loss.

  10. Kire Sdyor says:

    I don’t believe in a legal drinking age, BUT I believe that no one should be allowed to operate a motor vehicle until the age of 25.

  11. Beth Niebuhr says:

    I know what you mean. My children’s father was an alcoholic. His early suicide pretty much scared them off abusing alcohol if they had been tempted. I don’t recommend this as a solution though! You’re right – just be there for them and be proactive about the discussions. I also let mine know that if they made a mistake and were in need of a rescue from a party or riding with someone drinking, they could call me at any time.

    • I’m sorry to hear that Beth! Very sad situation. I will def let my kids know I am just a phone call away if they ever need any help.

  12. “It’s a sad fact of life that many of them have their first drink long before then.”

    It wouldn’t be sad at all if they were drinking at home and under parental supervision, and were drinking maturely and responsibly. America has the alcohol laws that it has because Americans are not mature about alcohol consumption.

    Given that America is not willing to fund mass transit in a serious way, perhaps the bars should all be closed down and everyone should just drink at home: this simple (if impractical) step would solve most of America’s problems with alcohol.

    • Very true Andy. Many Americans especially teenagers are not mature about alcohol. It’s usually used to blow off steam and have fun. Mass transit would def help those that get a little rowdy and encourage them not to drive.

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