Social media and savvy advertising have teamed up to make alcohol more popular amongst teens than ever. Even worse, as time goes on, alcohol imagery is accessible to younger and younger audiences.
So, what do we do about this? How do we keep our children safe in a climate where controlling the content they see is nearly impossible? After all, children pick up technology quickly as they grow. They will adapt and find ways around your influence one way or another.
But the point of parenting is not controlling your children, anyway. It’s about equipping them with the tools to cope with life’s trials and temptations as they age so they will eventually be able to function without you.
Before approaching your child, you should have an age-appropriate plan that allows for flexibility as they grow and their outlook on drinking changes throughout their teen years. Think about how your parents taught you—or did NOT teach you—about alcohol.
Lay Out the Options
If your older child or teen is grappling with a warped perception of alcohol consumption or is already struggling with alcohol abuse, you should create a plan in conjunction with your child’s primary physician and your child about how to combat the issue from progressing.
Be honest about the ramifications of alcohol abuse and how it can negatively affect even a teenager’s life. Most children probably perceive a certain invulnerability to the law under the age of eighteen, but there can be dire consequences for underaged drinking.
Your child is likely feeling a lot of shame as a result of you finding out these things about them, and they may lash out of embarrassment. An online rehab might be a good option for families whose teens want to minimize their chances of being recognized by someone they know.
Arm Yourself with the Facts
Before you can face the problem, you should familiarize yourself with the scope of it. First of all, you should know that when teens drink, they drink more than adults would under the same circumstances. They drink less often than adults do, but teens ages 12 to 20 drink more when they DO drink.
It is quite easy for parents to assume that their children would not succumb to that kind of pressure, but let’s face it: if most of their friends are normalizing it, they probably will play ball to keep the peace. Even surrounding themselves with that kind of excessive drinking without drinking themselves is going to be detrimental to their mental wellbeing in the long term.
You should also know that social media has grossly over-normalized the practice of binge drinking. When alcohol is present in a social media post, it is usually framed within a social context. This further impresses upon children’s mind that drinking is a way to fit in.
Knowing this enables you to have more realistic expectations for your child’s perception of alcohol. When they do mess up, knowing what caused it is helpful for preventing it from happening again. As parents, we must know how to inspire and motivation children.
Lead by Example
While you do not want to mislead your children about your lifestyle, you also do not want them seeing you drinking at every opportunity, either. If you want your child to develop a healthy relationship with alcohol, you need to demonstrate to them what that looks like.
Their behavior later in life will be a refraction of your own, today. So, choose your actions wisely when it comes to choosing when you drink in front of your children.
For instance, you do not want your kids or teens to see you drinking when you are upset as a means of cope. A glass of wine, a beer, a nice bourbon after a stressful day—these are fine once in a blue moon.
But children are more perceptive than you think. They will pick up on patterns if you begin using alcohol in stressful times in the home.
Help Find Them a Hobby
Children who participate in structured extracurricular activities outside of the realm of school benefit greatly when it comes to developing healthy coping mechanisms and logical decision making.
Different hobbies lend themselves to different niche skills, obviously, but they all have something in common. They are great outlets for any stress or negative energy. They build self-esteem in your child and allow them to set goals that are separate from school and their family.
And what can be better than a self-assured, independent child?
The hardest part of encouraging your child into a hobby is refraining from projecting your own interests unto them. Plus, teens can be hard to motivate to start new things. They might be especially anxious in embark into new social situations.
So, keep in mind your child’s readiness to experience novel thing when you are making your suggestions.