As a parent, you know that it’s your responsibility to look after your kids, which includes warning them about the dangers of drinking. So, what do you do when your kid comes home drunk? While your initial urge might be to panic or let your child know how angry you are, it’s important to handle the situation calmly and keep things in perspective.
While it’s true that 70 percent of teens have tried at least one drink by the time they reach 18, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, it doesn’t mean that they’re destined to develop a drinking problem. Knowing how to deal effectively with a child coming home drunk can help you determine whether there’s something more going on than this specific instance.
Wait Until Morning
Trying to talk to teens when they’re still intoxicated won’t do much good. Instead, help your child to bed and discuss it in the morning. This gives your kid a chance to sober up and you a chance to calm down, which allows both of you to approach the situation with a clear frame of mind.
Don’t Put Your Child on the Defensive
Don’t launch a verbal attack on your child and demand to know what happened. Begin the conversation calmly, and give your child a chance to explain what led them to drink. The calmer and more understanding you seem, the more likely your child will be to open up to you and fully explain what was going through their mind at the time. When you approach the situation with accusations or anger, your child will be more likely to refuse to talk to you. They might even resort to lying about what happened.
As your child tells you what happened, pay close attention to details, such as the following:
- Were they at a party or just hanging out at a friend’s house?
- Did they know ahead of time that there would be alcohol and did they plan on drinking?
- Did they decide to drink due to peer pressure or were they curious about alcohol?
Factoring in these details can help you figure out if this was your child’s first experience with alcohol and whether or not they are likely to continue drinking.
Express Your Concerns
If this was your child’s first time getting drunk, take this opportunity to express your concerns about underage drinking. Remind your child of the risks involved, which include death, serious injuries, poor decision-making, a higher risk of being physically or sexually assaulted and even brain development issues. You might even want to point out statistics, such as the fact that 5,000 kids under 21 die every year due to alcohol-related incidents. This can help your child understand how dangerous drinking can be and illustrate how much you care about wanting them to be safe.
Communication is Key
If you suspect that your child has been drinking on more than one occasion or that it’s an ongoing problem, you’ll need to handle the situation differently. It’s still important to talk to your child about what’s going on, but you’ll also need to take steps to try to get them some help. You can start by talking to your child’s doctor or a local clinic about possible alcohol addiction treatments for teens. This may be the time to speak with a professional therapist about an intervention. Build trust with your child by letting them know you love them by opening lines of communication.