Stop Teenage Drinking: 10 Steps to Keep Your Teen Safe


Parental instinct is a powerful force. Often, it will tell you when something is going on with your child. It could be as simple as them doing poorly on an algebra test. It could also be something far more dangerous, like a sense that they’re drinking alcohol. If you think your child is struggling, it’s up to you to figure out the problem and help them find a solution.

Teens aren’t prepared to deal with the risks of alcohol on their own. They need your guidance to make smart decisions. Get started with these 10 steps to stop teenage drinking.


1. Talk to Your Kids, Not at Them

Remember, your teen is enjoying growing up. They have more freedom, and they’re making decisions without your input. If you’re thinking about how to prevent underage drinking, understand that lecturing won’t persuade them to make positive decisions. It’s more likely to make them feel defensive, and they could just stop listening.

Figuring out how to prevent or stop underage drinking is a big topic, so don’t try to tackle it in one sitting. It should be an ongoing conversation in your home. Ask your child how they feel about underage drinking. Do they have friends who drink? Do they drink? What about peer pressure?

This is not a time for judgment. It’s a time to build trust and connect with your kid. Having lots of small conversations lets your child know they can come to you if they have a problem with alcohol now or in the future. How can you help prevent underage drinking in your home? Let’s talk about it!

2. Education is Key

Knowing the facts about underage drinking will help you share important information with your child to keep them safe. For example, the adolescent brain is still developing into a person’s mid-20s, and alcohol can cause permanent damage to growing brains.

Alcohol also affects teenage brains differently than it does adult brains. Underage drinking can make teens more likely to make risky decisions without considering the consequences.

3. Help Teens Understand the Risks

Kids may think underage drinking is no big deal because they see it in movies, television, and on social media. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “On average, underage drinkers consume more alcoholic drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.” That means kids are not enjoying the occasional beer or glass of wine as you might. They’re drinking to get drunk, and that could lead to risky behavior. Educating your teens about the risks and consequences will help to reduce underage drinking.

The potential consequences of underage drinking can range from getting kicked off a sports team for violating alcohol policies to getting in legal trouble, having unwanted sexual experiences, and even death. Underage drinking also can lead to more problems down the road. Teens who begin drinking before age 15 have a 40% chance of developing an alcohol use disorder as an adult.

4. Get Involved

Make sure you know who your kids are hanging out with and how they’re spending their free time. If they’re going to parties, find out whether there are adults at home while the kids are hanging out? Make a point of getting to know other parents at sports contests and other school events. After all, they probably have the same concerns about underage drinking as you do. Staying connected and being aware of who your child is hanging out with can help reduce the chances of underage drinking.

Make sure your child is involved in activities outside of school that discourage teenage drinking. Do they have a part-time job or participate in a club or sport? Bored teens are more likely to experiment with alcohol.

5. Be a Positive Influence

Kids usually learn about alcohol from their parents at home. After all, they see you have a drink after work or on the weekend, which is absolutely fine. Make sure your alcohol use is a responsible influence on your child’s attitude about drinking. Don’t drink and drive, don’t drink excessively in front of your children, and don’t use alcohol as an escape.

6. Eliminate Temptation

A teenager taking a bottle of beer out of a refrigerator.

Would you notice if a few beers disappeared out of the refrigerator in your garage? What if a bottle of vodka went missing from your liquor cabinet? Teens can be impulsive and often act on a whim. Eliminate temptation by locking liquor cabinets or keeping track of the alcohol in your home.

7. Be Aware of the Warning Signs

Teens who develop the “flu” after a night out with friends may be trying to hide the symptoms of a hangover. Beyond the immediate effects of underage drinking, there are other signs you should look out for to determine whether your child has a drinking problem.

Falling grades, cutting ties with old friends, or losing interest in a favorite sport could all be warning signs your teen is struggling with alcohol. Talk to your teen and find out what’s going on in their life. If you are struggling with how to stop teenage drinking in your home and need additional support, connect with professional resources to get your child the help they need.

8. Establish Clear Rules

Looking for a stronger way to stop underage drinking? While keeping in mind our earlier advice to encourage open and safe conversations, you should still establish clear rules and boundaries about alcohol and underage drinking in your home. It’s illegal for teens to drink or buy alcohol before they turn 21. For teens who have their driver’s license, it’s also illegal to consume any amount of alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a car.

Your teen should have a very clear understanding of the rules regarding alcohol and underage drinking in your home and the consequences they’ll face if they break those rules.

9. Create an Escape Plan

Teens want to make the right choices, but sometimes they need a little help to get out of a bad situation without losing face with their friends. Help them by creating a plan they can use to signal they need your help.

It can be as simple as a text to you that looks normal to your teen’s friends but has important meaning to you. The text is a signal for you to call and say your child needs to come home now, and you’re on your way to pick them up. There are many variations of this plan. Create something that works for your family.

10. Take the Pledge

Every parent should understand how to prevent underage drinking. Take the Pledge as a family – it’s a great way for parents and teens to connect in a positive way about a very difficult topic.

Parents pledge to set a good example regarding their use of alcohol, and teens promise to ask for help if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. And everybody promises to keep the lines of communication open.

Your child may not be thinking about drinking alcohol with their friends right now, but all parents know kids change quickly. When alcohol does become an issue, and at some point it likely will, make sure they have the tools to make the right decisions. Working together, you and your child can stop teenage drinking.