Talking to Teens About Alcohol

Last weekend an intoxicated 16-year old Orinda teen died in a hallway during a party, a preventable loss that disturbs any sane person. It makes me obsess about why our culture encourages the use of alcohol as part of celebrating and socializing, where the adults were, why the other teens ignored a person who had obviously drank too much, and most importantly, what if someone had just called 911 earlier?

Everyone in that community and all of us who heard about this tragedy will live with the "what ifs" but I hope it encourages every parent to make sure s/he has talked to their teen about expectations for their behavior, sure, but also about what to do when things get out of hand! You can help them avoid living with the "what ifs" by checking out Doc Gurley's great article for SF Gate this week that includes six practical tips that all teens should know about alcohol!

In addition to knowing how to recognize a medical emergency which you can find in Doc Gurley's article, families also need (rules) agreements about what to do if a teen finds themselves in a situation where alcohol is being abused. Of course, parents have to be comfortable with the agreement, but some families have agreements that include:
  • no driving a car after consuming any amount of alcohol;
  • no being in a car with anyone who has consumed any amount of alcohol;
  • not staying at a party where anyone is drinking or has had too much to drink;
  • a parent can be called at any time of the day or night to:
  • intervene at a party;
  • pick up a teen who has been drinking;
  • take a friend home who has been drinking;
  • help talk to irate parents; and
  • talk to friends about alcohol use.
Most of these agreements include a "no consequence" clause for the teen - which means there is no anger, grounding, punishment, etc... associated with any of those activities. That does not mean there isn't a serious conversation about alcohol use that may follow a good night's sleep, shower, and 12-hour cool down period, but if your teen does drink, you really do not want them to drive, be in a car, or be a victim in any way - so, please make sure they know that you would rather them call you and be safe!

If you want to know what your teen knows about alcohol use and when to call for help, ask him or her to tell you exactly what they would do if someone at a party has passed out or puked on themselves. If it does not including calling 911 and you to pick them up, ask them why, and then make an agreement about what will happen in those situations - and then abide by the agreement!

Every teen deserves this conversation!
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