Are you concerned underage drinking has become an unhealthy habit? As a teenager, you may not know how to talk to your parents about drinking alcohol, especially if you think you’re becoming addicted to alcohol or developing AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder). The good news is that you’ve already taken a smart first step by realizing you need help. No matter how much you’ve been drinking alcohol, you can always make a clean start, and usually, the most supportive people to turn to are your parents or another trusted adult.
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to talking with your mom or dad, as everyone’s family is different. Consider which of these tips on how to tell your parents you drink alcohol makes the most sense for you.
Think It Through — But Don’t Overthink It
A good time and place to talk to your parents is when you’re naturally together in a relaxed environment. This could be at the dinner table or in the car on the way home from school.
You probably won’t need to use any magic words to get them to listen to you. Many parents’ ears will perk up as soon as their teenager says, “Hey, can I talk to you about something?” And if you feel comfortable opening up to one parent about your substance misuse but not the other, that’s okay, too. Starting a conversation with a parent, coach, or other trusted adult is what matters.
Try the Sandwich Method
The “sandwich method” is a communication technique that works for many difficult conversations. Start with a positive statement: “I’m trusting you with something important.” Remind your parents that you’re coming to them because you have enough trust in them to genuinely care for and help you — aka, parent you.
Follow with the tough stuff: “Lately, I’ve been in some bad situations with alcohol” or “I think I have a problem with drinking.” Then, finish with another positive statement, one that’s action-oriented: “I need your help and advice so I can walk away from it.” This way of framing things could help set a calm, solution-oriented tone for your talk and keep them from going into panic or angry mode right away.
Let Them Process
You know your parents best and can probably guess how they’ll react. Decide how to tell your parents you drink alcohol based on that long-standing relationship. Give them a moment to process what you’ve told them, and remember that they’re human and may be upset or worried. After all, you’re their child, and you’ve just informed them that you’re dealing with a big issue.
Saying something like, “I know this may be a lot for you, but I told you because I want to make things better,” will remind them that you’re willing to let them express themselves emotionally, but you still want to face the issue and problem-solve with them as a team.
Make a Plan Together
Let your parents know you need their help to create a plan for recovery and be open to their suggestions. If you need help to avoid the temptation of underage drinking, your parents may set stronger boundaries for you and help you find more sober activities to occupy your time.
On the other hand, if you and your parents feel that you need professional help, then they can find you the treatment you need to quit drinking alcohol safely and successfully. Discuss your options and create a plan that makes everyone comfortable.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Ultimately, the person in charge of what you do is you — not your parents, friends, teachers, or anyone else. However, having your parents (and, if necessary, a professional counselor) to keep you accountable can make saying “no” to underage drinking a lot easier. In conversations with Talk it Out NC, a student at Raleigh’s recovery-focused high school Wake Monarch Academy stressed the importance of accountability as a “big thing” that can help you stay on track.
The Sooner You Talk About It, The Better
It’s normal to be scared and not know how to tell your parents you drink, but they are likely the best resources you have to help you quit drinking alcohol and lead a healthier, fuller life. If that’s not an option, remember that a teacher, coach, parent of a friend, or other trusted adult can also help you. Take Action and talk with someone today. You’ll feel a wave of relief once a responsible, caring adult knows what’s going on and can help you overcome underage drinking.